Back to school for our coral reefs

1 February 2023
Hidayah Halid

Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands are an archipelago blessed with extensive marine biodiversity despite being only located on the periphery of the Coral Triangle region, a global biodiversity hotspot between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The islands are surrounded by pristine crystalline blue water teeming with extensive coral reefs that provide sanctuary for marine life. The biodiversity of our marine species ranges from the smallest phytoplankton to top predators like the black tip reef shark and marine reptiles including sea turtles. We occasionally receive visits from the world’s largest known fish species, the whale shark.

One of our long-term goals at the Perhentian Marine Research Station (PMRS) is to conserve the islands’ abundance by sustainably managing their natural resources. The station is actively monitoring reef ecosystems throughout the islands every season and continuously advocates eco-practices to our stakeholders. PMRS is conducting routine visits to our dive sites for site assessments and monitoring surveys to observe any significant changes in the ecosystem that need to be urgently addressed, as well as to provide relevant data to support our conservation advocacy on the islands.

To increase the capacity and strengthen the credibility of the station, we’ve enrolled the crew in two different programs; The Reef Check, an eco-diving course, and The Ocean Quest, a coral propagation course.

The Reef Check: Indo-Pacific Eco Diver course

The Reef Check course is a globally established scientific reef monitoring program that collects valuable data on coral reefs worldwide. The data is analyzed and made available for the public to be used by local marine park managers, including national agencies and international organizations to improve the management of the ecosystem. The course combines education with action to allow scuba divers to play an active role by participating and working with the marine scientist in conserving the reefs.

I am a certified eco-diver in the Indo-Pacific reefs, enabling me to lead my team in conducting annual monitoring surveys in the Perhentian Islands and contributing data from the Indo-Pacific region to global surveys. This will improve the PMRS monitoring database locally, thus contributing to worldwide coral reef data collection. The station has five certified eco-divers within the team, with more members are set to be certified in 2023.

The Ocean Quest: Coral Propagation course

After completing the eco-diving course, our team continued with The Ocean Quest. The course is a comprehensive training program for coral propagation projects. The three-day program discussed topics including fundamental knowledge on corals, equipment, coral extraction and handling, substrate identification, propagation techniques and finally, a hands-on field training session.

Upon completing the course, students are certified as coral propagation volunteers, enabling them to become involved in worldwide coral propagation projects managed by Ocean Quest Global. With this certification, we gained the essential knowledge and techniques to propagate coral, which is a very delicate and fragile organism to handle. The Perhentian Islands are hosting one of the coral nurseries managed by Ocean Quest Global, which will provide us with the opportunity to garner further experience through volunteering in local restoration projects.

These two certifications are a huge milestone in my self-development by boosting my skill set and improving my credibility as Ocean Stewards in marine conservation, as well as providing networking opportunities with two well-established organizations in the marine conservation field.

Hidayah Halid

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Supporting partners 2023

Supporting partners

The Restoration Stewards program provides funding, mentorship and training to deepen the impact of youth-led restoration projects. The year-long program is run by the Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) and the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) under the banner of Generation Restoration to support and highlight the work of eight young restoration practitioners and their teams in 2023.

During the program, the Restoration Stewards and their teams are  supported to further develop their project and serve as ambassadors at both global and local levels. Globally, the Restoration Stewards share their journeys in a series of vlogs and blogs documenting their stories of inspiration and challenges and participate in different international events to showcase their work. Locally, they are sparking a restoration movement, mobilizing local communities and creating pathways to connect, share, learn, and act for livelihoods and landscapes.