Pangkor Island is a small resort island off the west coast of Perak, Malaysia. The coral reefs that surround the Island were once rich in diversity, however today they are suffering from multiple sources of degradation.
Tourism has had a negative impact on the coral reefs of Pangkor, including damage done by divers, snorkelers and boat operators. In addition, overfishing and pollution from poorly supervised sewage from resorts have also contributed to the detrimental changes to the reefs.
Enter Reef Check Malaysia. Since 2011 Reef Check Malaysia has been dedicated to the conservation of reefs and creating awareness among local communities about reef preservation. In 2014 in partnership with a local cement company YTL Corporation Bhd, the Reef Check organization spearheaded a restoration project around Pangkor island using 20 green cement reef blocks and transplanted coral frags.
The project was a huge success, says RCM general manager Julian Hyde, and records show that the young corals transplants had a 88% survival rate. Hyde also noted that a mini-ecosystem was established, with small fish and various invertebrates taking up residence among the young corals.
In 2016, to mark the 60-year anniversary of YTL as a long-time supporter of reef conservation, an additional 20 blocks were dropped near the boat jetty at Pangkor Laut Resort. The group had previously tried using plastic and PVC frames to attached the corals but choose to use cement blocks as they held up to strong currents in the area.
The cement blocks have metal hoops set in the sides of each block, this helps for lowering the 70kg (150lb) blocks onto the seafloor. Ropes are attached to the side of the block and a crane slowly lowers them into the water, while divers below help guide the blocks into place.
Setting the heavy block in water is one of the most challenging aspects of reef restoration as it requires either a boat or a barge with a crane to do the heavy lifting. PVC frames or lighted wire frames are easier to transport however they often don’t hold up to strong currents, tides or wave action. [New Straight Times]