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Star 27 Apr 07
Protecting Tioman marine life
By Simon Khoo
Some 130 divers joined Regent of Pahang Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah to build artificial reefs near Soyak Island, one of the eight surrounding islands here, to protect and preserve marine life recently.
The Tengku Mahkota had mooted the project with the first dive in Renggis Island, near the Berjaya Tioman Beach Resort, in September 2003.
A total of 270 divers participated in the event then which saw them laying some 50 reef balls on the seabed for corals to grow. It also resulted in the creation of two records in the Malaysia Book of Records for “the largest formation of scuba divers underwater” and “the largest deployment of artificial reef balls underwater.”
The latest initiative in Soyak Island was a follow-up to the programme in 2003, one of the objectives being to gather local and foreign divers together in a sporting event to promote an alternative dive site in Tioman.
This year, the divers laid in the seabed seven clusters of “fish house” constructed from polyethylene and PVC in a move to create a new habitat for a variety of corals, fish and other marine life.
Joining Tengku Abdullah in the dive were project chairman Tengku Datuk Kamarulzaman Sultan Abu Bakar and Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis. Scores of others including state Culture, Arts, Tourism and Heritage Committee chairman Datuk Maznah Mazlan, Tioman assemblyman Md Rusli Ismail, Bukit Ibam assemblyman Mohd Sahfri Abdul Aziz, Rompin district officer Roslan Harun and Tioman Development Authority general manager Datuk Hashim Mat Tahir were on board several accompanying boats to witness the dive from afar.
Several shots were fired in the air just as the divers emerged from under the water after completing the task several hours later. Later, Tengku Abdullah joined scores of locals and foreign tourists at a public feast in Kampung Salang. The guests were treated to cultural performances by dancers from Taman Budaya and invited local artistes Azman and Ummi accompanied by the band “Special Edition.”
The crown prince also launched the MyReef Foundation aimed at creating an awareness, education and research, in addition to raising funds for marine life and nature conservation efforts.
Towards the end, the crowd was entertained with a three-minute fireworks display before they waited in line to greet and shake hands with Tengku Abdullah.
Apart from the diving event, there were other activities such as an underwater treasure hunt, gotong-royong to clean up the beach, health talks and free medical check-ups for locals.
In his speech, Tengku Abdullah urged the state to do more to promote Tioman and other state attractions to outsiders. He said, at the same time, efforts must be stepped up to ensure “sustainable tourism” was achieved in the long term.
“Personally, I feel efforts to preserve the environment, particularly pertaining to marine conservation, are still lacking. “I hope to see more being done by all quarters as once the corals are destroyed, it will take many years to be replaced,” he said, adding that the foundation should welcome suggestions on how to restore and rehabilitate damaged corals.
Tengku Abdullah said Tioman had always been one of his favourite islands and urged the people not to compromise on its cleanliness and marine life.
“Back in the 1960s, the island was the location for the movie South Pacific. “We should organise more new events such as Tioman Discovery International Challenge and Tioman Iron Lady to attract more visitors,” he said, adding that an international boat show and race could be held once the marina was completed in due course.
Maznah said Tengku Abdullah love for the environment had been translated into affirmative action. She said among the projects mooted and launched by Tengku Abdullah were the week-long rafting expedition and Taman Negara Eco-Challenge.
“The latest Royal Reef project completes his involvement in leading conservation efforts of the country’s natural heritage namely the river, mountain and sea. “Presently, Tioman has 20 diving spots frequented by scuba divers in addition to World War II submarine wreckages in the South China Sea, which serve as a breeding ground for marine life,” she said.
Kamarulzaman said they hoped the fish houses could be expanded in future and matured into a “fish city” to attract more scuba divers and the flourishing of marine life in the island.
The artificial reef project is a collaboration between the Tioman Development Authority, the Pahang government and various public and private sector groups to promote tourism in Tioman in conjunction with the on-going Visit Malaysia Year campaign.
Tioman became a duty-free island on Sept 1, 2002, the third island after Labuan and Langkawi. Besides Soyak and Renggis, the other surrounding islands are Tumok, Tulai, Chebeh, Labas, Sepoi and Jahat.
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