600 reef balls to be dropped into Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef National Park

Jaul (left) listens to a briefing before the programme.

MIRI, Sept 29: Six hundred artificial reef balls, each weighing a tonne, are being deployed into the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef National Park under the Petronas-Sarawak Forestry Eco-Marine initiative.

The launching ceremony today was held on the barge “Samajaya” at Batu Belais by Deputy State Secretary (Rural Transformation) Datu Jaul Samion. It will take a week to complete the deployment process, and the site is about 45 minutes by boat from Marina jetty.

Some 550 concrete balls have already been deployed into two selected sites in Sibuti-Bungai waters two years ago. The reef ball component of the project will be completed after the final deployment of 699 more reef balls at the national park here next year.

With a lifespan of more than 500 years, these reef balls will help to regenerate the corals as they are able to mimic natural limestone and has the same PH level with the seawater. Their rough surface texture allows tiny soft-bodied organisms such as algae, coralline algae, sponges and coral polyps to land on them and proliferate.

About 600 reefballs will be dropped into the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef National Park.

The second component of the project, which is the Conservation, Education, Promotion and Awareness (CEPA) programme, will kick-off next year. It will focus on enhancing public awareness and instilling interest in environmental conservation and marine protection through multiple events and activities.

The conservation project, known as Petronas-Sarawak Forestry Eco-Marine project, is jointly carried out by Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and Petronas. It is one of the major corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects funded and implemented by Petronas in Sarawak since 2015.

This RM8 million project aims to create a sanctuary for marine life, prevent illegal trawlers from destroying natural reefs and encourage the growth of corals within the 186,930 ha Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park.

At a press conference after the launching ceremony marking the deployment of the 600 units reef balls, Jaul said it would be a shot in the arm for tourism and fishing community in Miri.

“The project focuses on regenerating and enhancing the state’s marine biodiversity that has largely been destroyed by illegal fishing trawlers. The reef balls will deter illegal fishing trawlers from the national park because their dragnets will be destroyed if entangled with the artificial reef balls, which have been planted around the coral reefs,” he said.

Saying fishermen in Miri and Sibuti areas would also enjoy a better catch, Jaul said, “So far we have received positive feedback on the project.”

Also present at the launching ceremony were Petronas Sarawak Regional office general manager Shamsur Taha, Sarawak Forestry Corporation’s biologist cum project manager James Bali.

Shamsur expressed his hope that the project would be extended. The initial agreement is from 2015 to 2019 involving a budget of RM8 million.

The Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park is one the largest marine parks in Sarawak. It contributes to Malaysia’s conformance to the International Conservations on Biological Diversity requirements for marine protected areas. The park is home to many marine species, such as sea turtles, whale sharks as well as coral reef complexes.

It is also part of the ‘Sea Turtle Highway’ or migratory routes where sea turtles head to its beaches to nest annually, yielding hundreds of tiny sea turtle hatchings.

However, due to frequent intrusions of illegal trawlers in recent years, the number of fish landing, including whales, has dwindled, and sea turtles no longer return to the beaches. — DayakDaily