Sustainable tourism is way to salvage coral, says Reef Check Malaysia

Reef Check Malaysia diver conducts survey on reef

KUALA LUMPUR: Earth Day is celebrated every year on 22 April. It is a day to raise awareness of the need to protect Earth’s natural resources for future generations. One of these natural resources is our coral reefs.

Coral reefs provide habitat for a huge variety of marine life and support the effective flow of the marine food chain.

However, there are still a lot of misconceptions about coral reefs, such as it is a rock, when coral reef is an animal. Without coral reefs, many marine species would not survive as coral reefs act as their nursery, home in adulthood, and food source.

For humans, a lot of jobs will be lost without coral reefs, particularly in coastal fisheries and tourism. Not only that, we will also lose protection against coastal erosion and a huge portion of our food source.

“Reefs provide not only food, but also important jobs for many coastal communities in Malaysia, and they are an important tourism product. Simple actions on a local level can significantly contribute to improving the health and resilience of our reefs.” shared Julian Hyde, Reef Check Malaysia’s General Manager.

Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) coordinates the annual Reef Check survey programme, working with partners Department of Fisheries, island communities and trained volunteers. In 2022 the programme covered more than 300 coral reef sites around Malaysia and provides a “health check” on coral reefs. Recently, RCM released its 2022 Annual Reef Check survey report.

The report shows that on average, the coral reefs surveyed in 2022 have a “fair” level of live coral cover, at 47.83%. This is a slight increase from 2021(44.26%) and continues an upward trend noted since last year’s surveys, reversing a decline that started in 2015.

RCM is of the opinion that the improving trend is due to the huge reduction in tourist numbers to coral reefs during the Covid-19 pandemic. In one of its recommendations, RCM suggests that temporary site closures should be considered as a management measure for the conservation of marine ecosystems. Furthermore, it is suggested that the government should consider introducing a more sustainable tourism model, which is in line with tourists’ increasing demands for more authentic experiences and which will also reduce the pressure on the environment.

Map showing the reef health composition of each survey location in Peninsular Malaysia based on Live Coral Cover.

Map showing the reef health composition of each survey location in Sabah based on Live Coral Cover.

Map showing the reef health composition of each survey location in Sarawak based on Live Coral Cover.

“While we welcome the improvement in the percentage of Live Coral Cover, which is a key coral reef health indicator, RCM urges the government to intensify efforts to protect our reefs.”, Julian added.

It is hoped that more proactive actions are taken to conserve and protect our coral reefs. The protection of coral reefs will benefit not only the marine ecosystem but also livelihoods and food security.

You may read the full report here. For more information on Reef Check Malaysia, you may visit them on their websiteFacebook and Instagram or contact them at  


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