Styrofoam is once again contaminating our waters

 

By MOHD IZHAM HASHIM

KOTA KINABALU: Styrofoam is once again the number one culprit in contaminating the waters of the state capital during the joint clean-up campaign along beaches at Pulau Sulug and Sutera Harbour on Tuesday.

The styrofoam menace along with other waste plastics never disappear but continue to break down into tiny microplastics which endanger reef ecosystems, and are consumed and can harm many marine organisms.

Around 130 volunteers, comprising members of the public, corporates, students and lecturers from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) were out in full force in the mission to clean up the shoreline and collected 230 kg of garbage.

“The most common material found was Styrofoam with over 7,000 pieces collected,” lamented Prof Dr Juanita Joseph, UMS lecturer of the Borneo Marine Research Institute (IPMB) Marine Biology Division.

Teams of volunteers spent the day collecting and gathering rubbish during the programme which was carried out along the shorelines of Kg Kibagu, Sepanggar, Sulug island and the public beach near Sutera Harbour.

“The Kota Kinabalu coastline are fringed with important ecosystems, from mangroves, rocky shores, sandy beaches, seagrass beds and coral reefs which support a diverse web of marine life – vital resources of food, livelihood and recreation,” said Juanita.

Furthermore, she noted such marine ecosystems also serve to protect the coastline from erosions for example, mangroves which act as natural shields against the destructive impacts of tidal influences, strong waves and typhoons.

However, Juanita lamented the impact of human activities have taken a heavy toll on the environment due to unplanned coastal development, unsustainable fishing practices, climate change and habitat destruction.

“Recognizing this problem, the University’s Borneo Marine Research Institute (IPMB) is joining Sutera Harbour Resort in pooling resources while working together with relevant government agencies to save our coral reefs and our threatened ecosystems,” she said.

The joint clean-up campaign was part of the mission headed by diversified industrial group, Jebsen & Jessen (SEA) to provide hands-on support for a citizen science marine conservation project at Sutera Harbour Resort (SHR).

“This project aims to gather baseline data on the biodiversity and status of coral reefs in Kota Kinabalu primarily through citizen science, where volunteers work collaboratively with professional scientists in collection and analysis of the data,” said Juanita.

She noted the study was important as very little information is available on reefs and other marine ecosystems of Kota Kinabalu, particularly outside the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park (TARP). The programme which was started on July 30 will be conducted for one week until August 3.

Themed “Sustaining Kota Kinabalu’s Marine Heritage”, the project was announced in March this year, and is part of a co-sponsorship agreement between JJSEA, SHR and the Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

Meanwhile, Chairman of Jebsen and Jessen (SEA) Heinrich Jessen said its employees will provide their assistance in the shoreline, reef and plankton survey, and beach combing.

“Apart from helping to collect, sort and analyse the data, the participants will also be able to learn more about issues in marine conservation such as Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) and potential threats and damages to the sustainability of the shoreline ecosystem,” he said.

Heinrich underlined the need for conserving Kota Kinabalu’s coastal ecosystem which lies on the fringe of the Coral Triangle which is home to the highest marine biodiversity in the world – comprising 2,500 species of marine fishes, 600 species of hard corals, 34% of the world’s coral reeds and 30% of the world’s mangrove systems.

“As an enterprise deeply rooted in the ASEAN region, we actively seek opportunities to give back and effectively support local communities in the region.

“We believe our long-term interests lie not only in ensuring that we provide the best services and products, but also in doing our part to promote environmental and social sustainability, “he said.

The launching of this project coincides with the 3rd International Year of the Reef (IYOR) 2018, which is designated once in a decade. This project is set to mark another smart collective milestone in the effort to better protect the marine life.

JJSEA’s annual in-house ‘Meet A Need’ CSR programme started in 2007 and Jebsen & Jessen (SEA) has invested in over 20 projects that seek to meet a social or environmental need within the communities of ASEAN. In its 12th environmental project, Jebsen & Jessen (SEA) is combining corporate volunteering alongside funding for the project.

 
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New Sabah Times