TIOMAN ISLAND, PAHANG, SEPTEMBER 2018 – In support of the International Year of the Reef (IYOR 2018), International Coastal Clean-Up Day (ICCD 2018) was held to raise awareness on marine conservation and highlight the importance of coral reef conservation. ICCD 2018 took place from 21st to 23rd September 2018 at Berjaya Tioman Resort, the flagship location of this nationwide clean-up initiative. The main conservation activities include coastal and underwater clean-ups.
ICCD 2018 was co-organized by Reef Check Malaysia, JCI Iskandar and Lions Clubs International District 308B1. To ensure smooth operations and success of the event, a few established dive operators in Tioman, namely Udive Malaysia, Moby-Tek Dive Centre and Scubaido, joined hands to lead the underwater clean-up. They also provided the necessary manpower, boats and dive equipment for the entire event. On top of that, representatives from Jabatan Taman Laut Malaysia and Rumah Hijau Tioman were also present to show their support towards this event.
For this year’s ICCD, Reef Check Malaysia welcomed public participation in order to instill greater awareness on marine and coral reef conservation. There was around 200 participants, including enthusiastic divers, members of the media and sponsors from Malaysia. All of them are known as the ‘Sea Warden’, the protectors of the oceans and marine life. From research to education on conservation, everyone played an active role in ICCD 2018.
As part of the research and education, Reef Check Malaysia highlighted the issue of marine debris, specifically on plastic waste which is a serious threat to our marine environment and dependent livelihoods. Reef Check Malaysia aims to collect as much data as possible on the amount of trash on our coastlines so that they can provide a concrete evidence to lobby for a change in our recycling and waste management habits. “All of us are responsible for the trash that ended up in our oceans. We want to increase awareness among Malaysians and see higher involvement in the local community. With the data collected, we can strengthen our discussions with the relevant government agencies, industry manufacturers, plastic producers and recycling companies. Our long-term goal is to prevent trash from entering our waterways, and hopefully, stop doing beach clean-ups,” said Mr Alvin Chelliah, the Project Manager of Reef Check Malaysia.
Prior to the underwater clean-up at the dive site of Soyak Island, all participating divers were thoroughly briefed to ensure the act of removing marine debris does not cause further damage to the marine environment and coral reefs. Only non-biodegradable items such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic containers, food wrappers, glass bottles and tin cans can be removed from the ocean. Any items that have already become incorporated into the marine environment, or supporting any marine life, should be left as it is as part of the ocean. As for the non-divers, they helped out with beach clean-up on the shore of Tulai Island, located off the northeastern coast of Tioman. Recyclable garbage bags were used for trash collection.
After the coastal and underwater clean-ups, participants separated trash into two main categories: recyclable materials and non-recyclable general waste. Recyclable materials were separated into three groups: plastic bottles, glass bottles and tin cans. Rumah Hijau, a Tekek-based recycling centre, helped to sort out recyclable materials that can be upcycled to new products. Throughout these 3 days 2 nights clean-up event in Tioman, participants managed to collect a total of 6,141 items, including both recyclable materials and general waste (refer to chart for clean-up data).
In terms of monetary contributions, Rip Curl Malaysia has been promoting and selling the ‘Sea Warden’ T-shirts from September onwards at their stores nationwide. Part of the profits will be contributed to Reef Check Malaysia to support sustainability of their conservation programmes. On top of that, ICCD 2018 had also received generous supports from eco-conscious brands that are mindful about maintaining the sustainability of our oceans. These include Rip Curl Malaysia, GoPro Malaysia Singapore, Hypergear Malaysia, Victorinox Malaysia, Montanic, J&A Productions, Carlsberg Malaysia and CO3 Social Office.
ICCD 2018 has demonstrated that the local’s active participation in marine conservation initiatives is essential for the sustainability of our fragile coral reefs and marine ecosystems. With the collective efforts from like-minded agencies and businesses, we had successfully brought together a passionate community with strong sense of awareness and responsibility in improving and protecting our marine environment.