27 December 2008

Tourism killing Malaysia's Perhentian Islands?

Terengganu’s Perhentian Islands are “arguably the most beautiful islands in Malaysia,” but they are starting to creak under the strain of burgeoning tourist arrivals. Poorly planned tourism development, ineffective sewage treatment and solid waste disposal, and illegal fishing are some of the factors affecting the health of Perhentian’s reef.At low tide, visitors can see the algae-smothered corals in front of the chalets. The algae could be a result of overflowing septic tanks from the chalets/resorts in Pulau Perhentian.

A 2007 Reef Survey done by Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) found the reefs in Perhentian have the poorest health as its live coral cover is only 34% compared to Tioman, Redang and Tenggol which have 50% or more. Also the islands have a high number of algae-coated reef, indicating nutrient pollution, probably from poor sewage treatment.

“I think the snorkelers are the biggest culprits — they trample on the corals, the smokers will flick cigarette stubs into the water or throw empty plastic water bottles,” says Azman.

“To please their clients, some boatmen gets into the water, grab the turtle by its carapace, pull it up to the surface to show the snorkelers,” adds Caron. “Some snorkelers actually hitch rides on the turtles and hold their fins, distressing the turtles.”

Frequently, kids will scoop up clownfish (popularly known as Nemo because of the Hollywood movie), keep them in small bottles and release them at a different spot later. But the fish, which forms a symbiotic relationship with sea anemones, will die if it’s placed in an environment with no anemones, Caron says.

Full article on the wildsingapore news blog.

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