A British-owned cruise ship has smashed into and damaged pristine coral reefs in Raja Ampat, a remote corner of Indonesia known as one of the world’s most biodiverse marine habitats, researchers and officials said on March 14.

HE’S a difficult young man to track down. Most days, Muhd Adzmin Ab Fatta is on remote islands with little or no Internet access. While having such a feeble connection to cyberspace may be equivalent to death itself for other 23-year-olds, Adzmin is having the time of his life.

If he isn’t in his diving gear studying the underwater world off the coast of his native Sabah, you’ll catch him giving talks on marine conservation to school children, taking part in eco projects and doing paperwork in Reef Check Malaysia’s office. But for two whole weeks in September this year, Adzmin was neither in the water nor in the office or in schools.

“I wasn’t interested in marine conservation till I started volunteering after my STPM (Sixth Form exams),” Adzmin admits, adding that his first volunteering job was with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), where, as an assistant marine biologist, he brought divers out to look at marine life in Semporna. It was then that he came to realise how rich Sabah’s waters were in its marine biodiversity.

At the same time, however, he witnessed the destruction of the beauty he saw. “We have such amazing marine life here in Semporna but so much of it was also corals which were ruined by fish bombing. All around you could also see marine debris and rubbish ...bottles and plastic bags, everywhere!”

Adzmin, who grew up in Kampung Selamat within the Semporna Settlements in Tawau, begun to notice that the younger generation in his hometown were not aware or involved in any marine conservation movements.

“I felt it was a shame because there aren’t many places like Semporna in this world with this kind of biodiversity. Seeing all the marine pollution and dead corals made me realise that there was no ownership of what belonged to our generation,” he notes.

Barely a year after that life-changing experience and at age 20, Adzmin and his friend Rina Ismail founded Green Semporna, a community-based organisation dedicated to raising awareness on marine conservation among schoolchildren.

“When I think about it, there was no subject in school which taught us about the richness of our oceans,” he recalls. “There was no emphasis on why we have to take care of our ocean or how the health of our oceans has such a big impact on our daily lives, even though we grew up here,” he says, in reference to Semporna, a coastal town.

The duo targeted school-going children as they felt younger people were more open to listening. “We want to mobilise them to learn about the importance of the ocean and how we, as the inhabitants, have to have a greater sense of responsibility to take care of our oceans,” he says, adding that he also saw a lot of potential to develop leadership skills among the youth in his community.

Since its inception in early 2013, Green Semporna has recruited many young volunteers who have been involved in talks, beach clean-ups and other projects, including the Borneo Eco Film Festival and the most recent, Project RAW: Mangrove4U, an initiative which aims to educate the public on protecting mangroves.

SURVEY: Do you think it is important for us to conserve corals and marine life?

I think it is important for us to conserve marine life. The corals, for example, are perfect habitats for many types of marine life and are valuable to mankind. If corals and marine life become extinct, animals that rely on them for protection and food, such as oysters and clams would also be endangered and become extinct eventually. — Muhamad Adzim Rosly, 16, SMK Lembah Keramat, Selangor

I think it is important to conserve corals and marine life because corals play an important role in the sea by giving shelter to marine species. If there are no more corals in the future, marine species that take shelter in corals will eventually become extinct because the natural habitats of the marine life do not exist anymore. — Avril Priyanka Mantovani Rabindra, 16, SMK Lembah Keramat, Selangor

In my opinion, marine life plays a huge and important part in our ecosystem. They provide food, medicine and livelihood to humans. They also support tourism and recreational activities around the world. Marine life produces much of the oxygen we breathe in, vital in our daily lives. The consequences of over-fishing and habitat-destruction are evident in many parts of the world and may have already damaged the marine ecosystem irreversibly. — Mehrunnisa Ebramsha, 16, SMK Puteri, Negri Sembilan

I would strongly encourage everyone to conserve corals and marine life. Why? Because corals are the ornaments on the seabed. If you really don’t take good care of them, then our seas would lose its original beauty. If you see people nowadays, they destroy their original beauty and replace it with something artificial. The same goes in the case of the corals and marine life, we would need to plant artificial corals in the future if we don’t take a good care of them now. Many marine life depend on corals. As an example, the clown fish lives among corals. If we destroy their habitat, we are endangering their lives too. The government should enforce a law regarding this matter so that these creatures will be protected. — Joel Raj Joseph, 17, SMK Subang Utama, Selangor

I have not seen corals but it is very important to conserve them so that we have a balanced diversity for today and tomorrow. If corals become extinct, it will affect the whole marine ecosystem in a chain reaction. I would appreciate if everyone on Earth can protect our marine world together with our government. — Abdul Hameed Mohameed Mohamed Salih, 19, SMK Maxwell, Kuala Lumpur

Yes, it is important for us to conserve our corals and marine life, because to me, they are just as important as human lives. It is important to always have a good relationship with marine life as well as maintaining a balanced ecosystem. — Adeline Tan, 17, SMK Air Putih, Pahang

I’m not sure what corals do specifically to the marine ecosystem, but they do remind me of the forests on land. The forests act as the homes for land animals, and to remove the forests would also mean removing the homes of these animals. I would assume the same logic goes for corals, and based on my limited experience in scuba diving, I did observe that fishes and other marine life live off and need the protection of corals. So if we were to destroy both “forests” of the earth, we would be, in fact, destroying both habitats of the animal world, defying our duty to manage the earth, and ultimately, bringing our own ruin. — Edmund Kong Wei Ren, 17, SMK Air Putih, Pahang

Students can share opinions by sending contact details to: schooltimes@nst.com.my

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