Malaysia's Tioman Island Gets Massive Coastal Clean-Up

Malaysia’s Tioman Island Gets Massive Coastal Clean-Up

When it comes to saving the marine ecosystem, action speaks louder than words

Over 200 participants from Malaysia and Singapore, including divers, flocked to Tioman Island, Pahang, in conjunction with the International Coastal Clean-Up Day recently.

The three-day event hosted by Berjaya Tioman Resort was in support of International Year of the Reef, a global effort to increase awareness of the values and threats to coral reefs, and to support related conservation, research and management efforts.

Participants in high spirits before the start of International Coastal Clean-Up Day in Tioman recently. Image: Berjaya Resort

With the help of non-profit organisation Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) and local dive operators, participants started the coastal and underwater clean-ups at several sites in the Tioman island archipelago including Pantai Teluk Genting, Fan Canyon, Batu Malang, Labas, Tioman Marine Park, Teluk Kador, Teluk Bakau and Kampung Tekek.

Tioman is a popular diving spot in Malaysia. Image: Berjaya Resort
Speedboats took the participants, dubbed ‘sea wardens’, around the Tioman island archipelago for the clean-up operation.

In less than two hours of cleaning 835 metres of coastline, known for white sands and crystal clear waters, the speedboats were filled to the brim with trash. Some of the ‘unique’ finds included a refrigerator, an ATV rear axle as well as bottles from Vietnam.

A plastic bottle from Vietnam washed ashore on Teluk Bakau.
Tioman local and Reef Check Malaysia assistant programme manager Mohd Shahir Yaman sorting out the many trash bags on Teluk Bakau.

Participants then separated the recyclable materials (plastic bottles, glass bottles and aluminium cans) and non-recyclable general waste. In a cost-cutting effort for the island located 40 kilometres away from the mainland jetties Tanjung Gemok and Mersing, a recycling centre equipped with glass and plastic processing machines Rumah Hijau was launched earlier this year in Kampung Tekek.

‘Sea wardens’ left with limited space as marine debris filled the speedboat to the brim.

The centre helps sort out recyclable materials that can be upcycled to new products. Plastic bottles took the lead with a whopping 1,807 pieces, followed by bottle caps at 1,315 and aluminium cans at 823 pieces. Straws and stirrers were among the top 10 trash with a total of 206 pieces collected.

Graphic: Reef Check Malaysia

A Tioman islander, who joined RCM in 2006, Norhasnieza Razali said marine debris that got washed ashore didn’t just come from people throwing rubbish in the ocean, but also from land. “These rubbish would drift in the ocean for weeks or months, if not years before ending up on land again. While drifting in the ocean, they pose as a big hazard to marine life,” the 25-year-old accounting graduate said.

Norhasnieza carries the trash collected on Teluk Bakau.

As part of the research and education, RCM aims to collect as much data as possible on the amount of trash on our coastlines to study the impact on marine ecosystem and share the findings with relevant stakeholders so the ecosystem can thrive for generations to come.

Amid Tioman’s scenic views, marine debris remain a threat to its ecosystem.

Other than Tioman, the International Coastal Clean-Up Day was also celebrated throughout Malaysia’s marine parks, islands and public beaches.

RCM project manager Alvin Chelliah hopes to increase awareness among Malaysians and see higher involvement from the local community.

“All of us are responsible for the trash that ends up in our oceans,” said the Kajang-born marine scientist, who has been based in Tioman since 2014.

“Our long-term goal is to prevent trash from entering our waterways, and ultimately, stop doing beach clean-ups.”

‘There’s still enough space,’ Shahir signals participants to load more bags on the truck.

In support of RCM’s conservation programmes, one of the big names among the surfing community Rip Curl Malaysia is contributing RM15 for every limited edition Sea Warden t-shirts sold at its online and retail stores nationwide.

Its senior marketing executive Moe Faisal said Rip Curl Malaysia has always been a strong advocate of conservation efforts.

“As a brand that revolves around mother nature, we feel strongly about keeping Malaysia’s marine life, forest and land beautiful and healthy for us and the future generation,” he said.

For those who wish to join RCM’s programmes, visit or its Facebook page to stay updated with the year-round marine conservation efforts in Malaysia.

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