Conserving with Reef Check Malaysia

November 5 , 2014


Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) is a non-profit organisation that was registered in 2007 to engage with the local community as well as protect, restore and revive coral reefs in Malaysia. RCM partners with a global network of trained and certified EcoDiver volunteers to conduct annual Reef Check surveys to assess the health of reefs around the islands of Malaysia. RCM also conducts education and awareness programmes, along with coral reef rehabilitation programmes.

In 2008, RCM started to partner with YTL with the initial goal to explore the possibility of improving the condition of reefs and marine habitats around Pangkor Laut. It started with RCM volunteers to conduct awareness and education programmes, combined with beach clean-up activities to the staff at Pangkor Laut Resort (PLR). Subsequently, RCM also provided training to local snorkeling guides, equipping them with better skills and knowledge on the importance of conserving coral reefs.


After years of mismanagement, in time, the snorkeling guides looked for further assistance for instance the scientists from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) to improve the poor condition of reefs at their snorkeling sites. RCM implemented its first coral rehabilitation programme, establishing a nursery at Mentagor Island, near PLR. When harvested and maintained properly, coral fragments, or “nubbins”, grow into a healthy coral reef ecosystem that is able to support a variety of marine species.

Even with the challenging local current and sea conditions, RCM and YTL descend beneath the waves in a collaborative effort to rehabilitate the coral reefs in the region around Pangkor Island. RCM worked with YTL to design cement blocks that would provide suitable substrates for coral, and in November 2013 the first concrete blocks cast and transported by YTL Cement were deployed and the initial results were encouraging. Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) was also determined to join the rest in the coral reef rehabilitation programme.


Monitoring revealed the nubbins on the cement blocks were healthy and growing well, and the survival rates were as high at 86%. Common coral reef fish, such as grouper, parrotfish, rabbitfish, bream and damsels were also seen around the blocks. The blocks were also kept largely free from algae and silt to promote better growth.

At the same time as the initial deployment of the blocks, a “Safe Snorkeling Zone” was established to protect the rehabilitation experiments from damage by boats and snorkelers. The local snorkeling guides very soon adopted this Zone as their own, and rules were developed for its use. This was the first community-based no-take area in Malaysia. Snorkeling guides have since used the Safe Snorkeling Zone to show their guests the beauty of coral reefs, and many lessons have been learned about the need to conserve these important resources.

A major role was played by YTL in being a help to RCM in enhancing the reef rehabilitation methodology. The framework of was began with the use of PVC frames in the early stages and with constant monitoring and research, it is now evolving to specially designed concrete blocks. RCM hopes to endure its contribution towards the growing scientific knowledge of coral reef rehabilitation that would lead to several effective methods for coral reef preservation. All this was first conducted in Pangkor, RCM has since established rehabilitation sites on the islands of Redang, Perhentian, Tioman, and even Mantanani in Sabah.

The efforts were continued by YTL Hotels and Autodome, both wholly-owned subsidiaries of YTL Corporation, through an initiative to raise funds on a recurring and long-term basis for RCM in conjunction with evian® and their local distributor in Malaysia, GBA Corporation. The goal was to reduce the use of plastic bottles and also educate customers on the importance of environmental conservation. From the sale of the evian® water bottles sold, a total of 5% would be donated to RCM for their reef surveys, coral rehabilitation and other critical work they are carrying out around Malaysia to survey and protect coral reefs and the species that use those reefs as spawning grounds.

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