Let’s meet the future of the Perhentian Islands: the #AnakPulau, or ‘children of the island,’ a group of island youth actively involved in protecting their homeland.
The Anak Pulau program is a community empowerment program created to establish community-led conservation efforts in the Perhentian Islands, located off the coast of Peninsular Malaysia. I have dreamed of establishing a local conservation team since my tenure with the Perhentian Marine Research Station (PMRS) in 2019. The project started small by publicizing the idea to stakeholders, but we have since received support from a dive shop, Panorama Diver, to sponsor dive certifications for three local students.
After certifying these three students, I developed Anak Pulau program to empower my island’s community because they are the voice of their homeland. The current team has now grown to 16 members, consisting of dive instructors, divemasters and native island youth. The members are divided into two teams: the Rapid Response Team and Junior Divers. The Anak Pulau program has received exceptional interest from local youth and acknowledgement from local stakeholders.
Rapid Response Team is a team of young adults trained in conservation actions such as ghostnet removal, the installation of safety bouylines, underwater clean-ups and restoration dives. Meanwhile, the Junior Divers consists of local school students and aims to deepen their interest in the marine environment, with potential promotion to the Rapid Response Team.
In September 2022, we saw incredible growth as the program successfully established a weekly on-call unit for the Rapid Response Team. With a bigger pool of team members, we were able to mobilize the team to immediately remove any threat to the coral reef and ecosystem. We also started recruiting to increase the capacity of the team. The new recruits have been certified by local dive shops and partook in a series of training courses to prepare them to join the on-call unit.
Meanwhile, we have expanded the Junior Divers to include practical learning activities. The Junior Divers recently participated in coral identification dives to learn the types of coral present in the Perhentian Islands. These Junior Divers are students between the ages of 13 and 16, and the dive session was assisted by a local diveshop and guided by our divemaster, a senior members of the Rapid Response Team, while I led the learning activities. I have been aiming to integrate scientific knowledge into community early education, and the Junior Divers program is a platform to realize my long-term vision for marine conservation in the islands.
The Anak Pulau has been recognized by national organizations such as ReefCheck Malaysia, The Habitat Foundation, Yayasan Hasanah and government agencies. The Global Landscape Forum (GLF) has partially financed the program, and is the only international organization currently working with PMRS to support the Anak Pulau program. As the 2022 Oceans Steward, I was able to provide training dives for the Rapid Response Team and learning dives with Junior Divers while building a strong rapport with local stakeholders around the islands.