‘Paper boat’ pollution on Perhentian Islands

Written by Dr. Chen Pelf Nyok

Dr. Chen is the co-founder of Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia. She currently heads the community-based River Terrapin Conservation Project in Kemaman, Terengganu, Malaysia.

7 Jun 2016

Context: We were alerted about an incident that took place in Perhentian Island, where a training company was conducting a team building event. One of the activities was building “paper boats” and releasing them into the sea. Despite numerous pleas from tourists to retrieve the “paper boats” after the activity, the management of the training company did not take any action.

Date: 7th June 2016
Source: Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: Environmentalists have decried the actions of a training company for polluting the waters of Perhentian Islands, off Terengganu.

In a statement, Chen Pelf Nyok, from the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia, voiced concern over the incident which saw paper boats being released into the sea as part of a team-building event. The paper boats were not retrieved after the event.

Chen said Perhentian Islands were important foraging and nesting grounds for green and hawksbill turtles, and pollution of its waters posed a threat to them.

Daniel Quilter, from Fuze Ecoteer, a community and conservation project, said sea turtles could easily mistake pieces of papers, cloth, masking tape and sticker paper for food.

Universiti Malaysia Terengganu’s Long Seh Ling said the incident was an example of how a seemingly harmless activity could bring irreversible danger to wildlife and the environment.

Long said trash in the sea and on the beach affected marine wildlife, as well as the health of tourists and the economy.

Chen also said that the trash in the sea and beach could injure swimmers and beachgoers, and drive away tourists.

“Resort operators, especially those in locations affected by the annual monsoon, depend very much on the revenue they can generate during the operational months. Bad reviews will certainly drive potential tourists away.”

Chen added resort operators played a very important role in protecting the environment and should enforce strict regulations for companies who plan to carry out events at their premises.
She said resort operators and companies could provide trash bins for events, and all participants must help clean up after.

On Saturday, Facebook user Timothy Chan highlighted the paper boat incident, and said the training company failed to clean up even though it said it would.

Eventually, some foreign tourists, locals and participants ended up retrieving the paper boats from the sea.

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