Citizens in Action - Coralku & LUSH Malaysia Team Up

Coralku

26 Mar 2022

Our first physical event opened new doors and built new bridges.

It is early morning in Pulau Lang Tengah. The sun is still hiding behind the lushly forested hills, as our team is already carrying the first coral frames into the shallow lagoon waters in front of Summer Bay Resort. The tide is low - extremely low - and high up in the skies are White-bellied Sea Eagles, elegantly circling and hunting for breakfast.

It is an exciting day, as it is the first physical outreach event for our young organisation, and we were stoked to welcome a big group from LUSH Malaysia. After receiving a briefing on coral frame restoration, as well as a presentation on coral reefs and climate change, the group is slowly gathering up on the beach.

The mission of the day is to deploy 9 coral frames, each holding roughly 50 coral fragments. These fragments were collected just a day earlier. Every year after the northeast monsoon season there is a large amount of broken corals scattered across the seabed. According to a paper by Smith & Hughes (1999), these have little survival chance (~10%). Hence, this event was meant to support our ongoing efforts to mitigate the loss and decline of hard corals. The coral frames are used in the absence of natural reef substrate to act as a steady base for broken corals to regrow, and are used in areas where coral reef degradation has reached critical levels. They serve a double purpose: acting as artificial reef substrate, and as 'coral breeding banks' alike.

The campaign started as soon as the tide started rolling in. A total of 28 dedicated individuals gathered at Summer Bay Resort, Lang Tengah Island and joined the event. One group deployed the frames by SCUBA diving, while non-divers were snorkeling and duck diving to attach the coral fragments to the frames. In less than 2 hours the job was completed, and our staff proceeded to move the frames into deeper water.

Once the frames were completed, the divers from LUSH Malaysia joined us on routine outplanting dive to propagate coral fragments at a designated restoration site at Karang Nibong Reef. We have started our restoration efforts at this site in 2021, and we intend to plant 15,000 coral fragments here until 2025. The group helped us plant 30 coral fragments with the novel coral clips. Luckily, the clips are easy to use and even untrained divers can help with coral clip propagation.

Within a day, almost 500 broken coral fragments were rescued, and all event attendees got to learn more about coral reef ecology, conservation and climate change. We will continue to monitor the growth and health of these corals, and we hope that such events will rally more Malaysians to support ongoing coral conservation and restoration efforts to mitigate the decline of precious marine biodiversity.

The coral reefs surrounding the island are already under severe stress from constantly rising ocean temperatures, that lead to mass coral bleaching (a direct result from man-made climate change). Development on the island has also degraded large sections of the reefs, reducing them to isolated patches, which are thus at great risk due to the movement of sand and dead coral rubble. Without interventions efforts, the remaining coral patches would continue to decline and this campaign by LUSH Malaysia and Coralku particularly aimed at mitigating the ongoing decline of coral colonies by rescuing broken fragments.