Kota Kinabalu: Sabah Parks is checking all marine parks in the State for coral bleaching, Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin said.
If the situation arises, Sabah Parks would close the parks or take ameliorative actions to overcome the problem.
“A few days ago, the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia announced that numerous islands in Kedah, Terengganu and Pahang have been closed for a few months due to coral bleaching.
“The bleaching this time was more significant and widespread due to global warming,” he said, at the opening of the Fifth Meeting of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion Programme Tri-National Committee here.
His speech was delivered by Assistant Minister, Datuk Musbah Hj Jamli Yahya, who is also Agriculture and Food Industry Minister, said he highlighted the point to drive home the message that people now face unprecedented challenges to protect their natural resources.
“If in the past we have been concerned about more specific issues such as the destructive exploitation of natural resources, making animal or plant species extinct, pollution and illegal fishing, now we have to be not only very concerned but actually take necessary action to improve our global climate.
“The flip side of this is starkly dark for our future – species disappearance, biodiversity loss, negative socio-economic impacts, threats to our very living spaces and regression in our quality of lives, among others,” he said.
Meanwhile, dive master Clement Lee said the claim by USM marine biologist Prof Dr Zulfigar Yassin that “some 90pc of Malaysia’s corals are dead” does not speak for Sabah.
“Sipadan and Mabul both 40 minutes to one hour from Semporna are not affected except at isolated spots. Pulau Sibuan and Mantabuan are also not affected,” Clement said via phone.
“I have been taking pictures in Mabul and Sipadan, the corals are as healthy as ever.” Lee said readers can verify what he says in the Internet at email@example.com.
In the West Coast such as Tunku Abdul Rahman Park we do see some bleaching but it’s no more than 20pc to 30pc and began since June, Lee said.
“Our West Coast shares the same South China Sea as the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The water temperature in Sabah’s west coast and Peninsular Malaysia is quite similar. In Peninsular, it’s between 30-31 degrees Celsius and 29 to 30 degrees in Sabah,” Lee said.
USM’s Prof Zulfigar singled out global warming, noting that coral bleaching had spread since April from the coast of India to Australia and now West Malaysia but said non-stop sewage and industrial discharge from coastal development add to the “stress”.
He said corals would bleach and turn white when sea temperature rises above 31 degrees Celsius for more than two days.
However, Clement said if global warming were the cause, it puzzles him why Sabah seems to be spared .
Even during an extended drought February to April this year when stifling temperatures were experienced across Sabah, there was little sign of coral bleaching here, Clement noted.
However, the switch of weather patterns from El Nino to La Nina which see frequent cloudy conditions and rainfalls “invariably lower the water temperature,” Clement guessed.
“Being part of the Celebes Sea, Semporna’s water temperature right now is 26 to 28 degrees Celsius and therefore Mabul and Sipadan’s water temperature is much cooler than West Malaysia or even Sabah’s West Coast. Maybe this is why the corals here are not affected,” Clement said.
“But equally, corals will get a shock if there were a sudden drop in temperature,” said Clement, citing a caution from UMS’ Prof Ridzwan.
“We hope this will not be the case,” Lee said.
Prof Zulfigar warned that decline in coral reefs will lead to fewer fishes in the sea and ocean and hurt fishing industry because the reefs provide a home to many marine species.
He also warned that bleached corals may take years to recover despite mitigating measures such as closure of diver sites, reduced intake of seafood and reduction in carbon emissions.
Source: Daily Express, Friday, July 30, 2010