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PORT DICKSON, April 2, 2015 :

Coral reefs in Port Dickson may be lost within 50 to 60 years should rampant development along the coastlines persists, a coral expert warned.

Universiti Malaya (UM) Institute of Biological Sciences, Coral Reef Ecologist Affendi Yang Amri said if the local authorities did not address the rising turbidity of waters immediately, the rare corals in Blue Lagoon here, which require light to conduct photosynthesis, might be gone.

“This poses a threat in two ways; environmentally and livelihood,” Affendi warned, when contacted by The Rakyat Post.

The coral expert, who is set to hold a talk on this matter on April 7 at the SWAG Bar & Grill, said areas where coral reefs thrived, fishes were in abundance.

“If they’re gone, that would mean less fishes for the fishermen and there is possibility of beach erosion as the corals act as barriers to prevent erosion from happening along the shorelines.”

In Port Dickson, specifically along the Tanjung Tuan and Blue Lagoon area, the sediments caused by rampant development has led to the waters having very little visibility.

“It takes time for the sediments — majority of them being in fine particles — to settle down.

“When this happens, light can’t travel through, posing problems for the corals to thrive.”

The Blue Lagoon marine conservation area is now one of the few pockets of thriving coral reefs, with majority of them being a rarity in Peninsular Malaysia.

“This is what makes PD (Port Dickson) special, its diverse and rare coral reefs.”

Affendi said the coral reefs had a survival threshold with regards to turbidity and sedimentation stress but with higher turbidity, many corals lived in shallow waters.

“However, this poses a double whammy as many holiday-goers collect and trample the corals, assisting in their demise. It is worrying.”

The coral expert said the relevant authorities should regulate the coastal development through proper planning, with adequate enforcement officials upholding the law.

A local, Lionel Perera, has sent numerous letters to the authorities on the matter, but they have been met with silence.

“I have even sent letters directly to Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) specifically on its power plant located along the coastline, which have been releasing waters above the room temperature.”

He pointed out that according to scientists, the corals can’t live in water that is warmer or colder than 26°C to 27°C.

The 56-year-old PD born and bred has spent much of his growing up days snorkelling in the sea and said much had changed compared to 20 years ago.

“Pollution, raw sewage being directly released into the sea and stretches of land being reclaimed, all these have posed a huge problem for the corals.”

The political secretary to Port Dickson assemblyman M. Ravi said despite the Blue Lagoon area being marked as a marine conservation area, many still head there to fish.

“There is lack of enforcement, with no signs erected to inform the public.

“This is akin to killing a goose which lays the golden egg as the corals assist in the state’s tourism industry,” he said, adding that should the corals go, hoteliers will face the brunt as well.

Perera had also submitted a proposal to build a ”marine jungle’ some five years ago and it had also met with no response.

Scuba instructor Sazali Sakiran said the corals in PD were the second most beautiful in the peninsula after Pulau Tenggol in Terengganu.

“There are nearly 50 to 70 types of corals in the one kilometre stretch,” the ex-military man said.

The 38-year-old, who conducts regular scuba training and dives on the weekends through his company, MDG Scuba Station, said the only issue was caused by the visibility of the waters.

“Sometimes when I dive, I can see sediments on the corals. Otherwise, the scenery is beautiful and I hope the authorities will assist in ensuring the beauty of the corals are maintained.”

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