Penang seagrass bed - home to turtles and dugongs - threatened

Wong inspecting some seagrass at the Middle Bank seagrass bed located between the Penang Bridge and the river mouth of Sungai Pinang.

GEORGE TOWN - The state's only bed of seagrass, which is home to various marine species such as turtles and dugongs, is in danger after the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) called for a proposal to reclaim it.

The 50.6ha bed in Middle Bank, located between Penang Bridge and the Sungai Pinang river mouth, is the second largest in Peninsular Malaysia after Merambong in Johor.

Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu said PDC had called for a Request for Proposal (RFP) to reclaim the area.

"I have learnt that the Middle Bank was included in the Penang Structure Plan 2007 as reclaimable land.

"Since the plan is now up for review, the current state government should consider removing it as a reclaimable land," he said.

The state government, said Teh, should also carry out a detailed environmental impact assessment on the seagrass bed and the reclamation of land.

"I hope that PDC can reconsider the reclamation plans. The Middle Bank should remain a 'green lung' in the sea," he said, adding that at least six seagrass species could be found at the bed.

"Seagrass bed is important as it provides nursery, shelter and food for marine species, including fish, turtles, dugong and seahorses.

"It also protects fishermen and fish breeding workers from big waves," he said after visiting the Middle Bank with state assembly speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang here yesterday.

"The state government should gazette the seagrass bed as the 'Penang Heritage of Seagrass Bed Marina Park'," he said.

Environmental educator Wong Yun Yun said various seagrass species, including tape seagrass and halophila, as well as marine creatures such as hermit crabs, clams, sea urchin and octopus were found during the site visit.

In an immediate response, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the reclamation project would only go on if the environmental impact assessment permitted it.