Theme : Together we are stronger

Collaboration, not competition

The number of threats facing our reefs seems to diversify and intensify with every passing year, leading many of us to wonder if anything can actually be done to protect them. It is easy to think that some of the issues are beyond us and working in isolation only amplifies this feeling of helplessness.

Conservation and preservation of our reefs is possible and the dive industry has a major role to play – if we don’t, who will!? While some operators are already doing their own conservation efforts, many still choose to ‘leave it to the experts’ or think that it would cost untold amounts of time, energy and money to get involved. Protecting the health of your local reefs is pivotal to the long-term viability of your business. As well as this, ‘green’ and responsible tourism is a fast growing market, with more and more people choosing dive operators and locations based upon their environmental credentials and eco-friendly policies.

Doing ‘our own bit’ is important, but the results of our efforts are magnified when we work collaboratively. Different people bring different knowledge, skills and expertise to the table ensuring we have all the attributes necessary to achieve our goals. Also, the more people involved, the louder the collective voice and the greater the ability to influence.

Unfortunately, collaborative approaches within the dive industry are often lacking due to operators viewing each other as competition. This mindset needs to change – dive operators need to work together if we are to protect our reefs. Healthier reefs will lead to a healthier tourism industry, which inevitably means increased revenue for dive operators and improved long-term business viability.
This mini-series will highlight some great success stories, showcasing the power of the collaborative approach. Come along to find out more!

Friday 12th June 2020Main stage
11:00-11:05Short intro to the mini-series
11:05-11:20Turtle TeamWork ( Dr Mohd Uzair Rusli, SEATRU)
11:20-11:35COTS Mabul (David McCann, Scuba Junkie SEAS)
11:35-11:50Reef care Tioman (Alvin Chelliah, Reef Check Malaysia)
11:50-12:00Q & A session

Short Synopses

COTS Mabul (David McCann, Scuba Junkie SEAS)
In November 2018, Pulau Mabul faced its first ever outbreak of crown-of-thorns seastars (COTS). The outbreak was a major one (over 8,000 COTS!), but was dealt with swiftly and effectively due to the collaborative efforts of a number of dive centres and government departments. Come along to find out what action was taken to prevent devastating damage to the reefs of Mabul.

Reef Care Tioman (Alvin Chelliah, Reef Check Malaysia)
Reef Check has been working with the local community to train up individuals with the skills set required to manage their natural resources. Currently on Tioman we have 15 trained individuals involved with a variety or management and conservation activities. Using Reef Care as the platform to engage with tourism operators, local governments and the local population the team are trying to
ensure that development and the tourism industry is grown in a sustainable way.

Turtle Teamwork: Life Lessons to Learn from Nature
Turtle hatchlings work together with clutch mates to escape their underground nests – and the more they team up, the less energy they waste. Hatchlings entering the sea with larger energy reserves are presumably at an advantage as they can survive longer before finding food and therefore escaping the nest in larger cohorts probably results in hatchlings of greater fitness. These are some of the humbling lessons we learned from nature on how maximizing chances to success. The ‘business’ of conserving sea turtles is far from being a one-man show. In line with my group resolution of ‘Nurturing Turtles, Connecting People’, we continue to connect different agencies such government, NGO’s, tourist operators, local communities, tourists and general public in order to achieve our conservation goal. I will share the 35 years of UMT’s experience on working together with various agencies in conserving sea turtles worldwide.

David McCann

David McCann is a Conservation Manager for Scuba Junkie SEAS on Mabul Island, Sabah, Malaysia. He hails from Ireland where he gained his BSc Marine Biology and MSc Environmental Management & Conservation Biology. He is passionate about the role of the dive industry in marine conservation – his current work includes raising awareness of marine conservation issues, as well as developing and
implementing solutions. This includes running a turtle hatchery and rehabilitation centre, carrying out reef health check surveys and reef restoration, tackling marine debris through reef and beach clean-ups and community engagement

Alvin Chelliah

Alvin Chelliah has been diving since he was in high school. After completing his Master’s Degree in Marine Science from the National University of Malaysia he joined Reef Check. He has been promoting community involvement in marine resource management on Tioman island for the last 6 years. He has also been actively promoting the Green Fins approach to sustainable diving around Malaysia since 2014.


Head of Field Research Laboratory
Sea Turtle Research Unit (SEATRU)

As a Sea Turtle Research Unit (SEATRU) Team Leader, my responsible to not only doing scientific research but also actively involved in conservation activities. One of the iconic conservation program in UMT since 1998 is the SEATRU volunteer program at Chagar Hutang, Redang Island and this program has received volunteers from around the world. Besides, I am also appointed as technical advisor for many conservation projects related with sea turtles globally. Working closely in conservation science, I am hoping that more people will work together to protect their own precious natural heritage such as sea turtles, and other important marine ecosystems to ensure the survival of endangered species and towards development of sustainable society.


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