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5.1 Carrying capacity as a planning and management tool
5.2 Type of tourism
5.3 Management objectives
5.4 Criteria that affect capacity
5.5 Carrying capacity assessment

The Department of Fisheries, Malaysia, under the auspices of the FAO/UN's Bay of Bengal Programme, is formulating a Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) for Pulau Payar Marine Park. This study is one of three complementary studies and assessments conducted under the SAMP Project in an effort to determine the past and current conditions of valued resources within the SAMP area. Information from the three studies will be used by the SAMP Committee process to help develop management measures to address the problems identified. This study deals with the trends and the probable effects of human activities (including tourism) on Pulau Payar Marine Park's fishery habitats. The two additional studies include the status and trends of key target species of the area's fisheries, monitoring ecological indicators within the SAMP area to provide a baseline for measuring change in the ecosystem resulting from management actions implemented under the SAMP.

5.1 Carrying capacity as a planning and management tool

As visitors to Pulau Payar Marine Park increase dramatically, there is considerable pressure on its reefs, both through reef-related tourism and land-based activities. In addition, the proximity of Pulau Langkawi to Pulau Payar Marine Park implies that development activities on Pulau Langkawi could also have considerable negative impact on the Marine Park's marine environment. The concept of carrying capacity can be utilised for reef ecosystems to identify criteria that affect capacity and to subsequently enable the reduction or elimination of any causes of damage.

For carrying capacity to be a useful tool for tourism planning and management, it should not be approached in a mechanistic manner (i.e. trying to determine a "magic number"), but should rather be seen as a means of identifying thresholds that require attention, and as an optional form of controlling the system through the imposition of partial or complete limits (Getz, 1983). While recognising the limitations of the traditional concept of carrying capacity, it is used here to help identify the factors that have a negative impact on the marine environment of Pulau Payar Marine Park. Focus is then on identifying management recommendations that may alleviate tourism pressure on the reefs, so as to limit adverse impacts on the coral reef environment.

As discussed in Section 1.2, a carrying capacity that needs to be established for Pulau Payar Marine Park is the tourism carrying capacity, that is, the capacity of the Marine Park to accommodate visitors and development without any detrimental effect on the marine environment and its resources, or a decline in visitor satisfaction (WTO & UNEP, 1992). This can be further broken down into its fundamental components of ecological or environmental, physical, social and economic carrying capacities. See Section 1.2.1 for definitions of carrying capacity. In addition, the reef carrying capacity needs to be determined; this is further examined from the perspective of ecological, physical and social carrying capacities. A more detailed discussion on coral reef carrying capacity and its determinants is presented in Section 1.2.2 and Section 1.2.3.

5.2 Type of tourism

Pulau Payar Marine Park is a popular day trip destination, especially for visitors to Pulau Langkawi. Due to the type of visitor that visits Pulau Langkawi and the marketing of the area, the tourism industry that has developed in Pulau Payar Marine Park leans towards mass tourism, which is not so appropriate for a Marine Park. Marketing and promotion strategies should follow closely the marketing action plan and guidelines spelt out in Parts 1 and 3 of the National Ecotourism Plan (MOCAT/WWF Malaysia, 1996) so as to ensure that the tourists that come to the Marine Park are environmentally aware and responsible.

The vast majority of visitors (81.12%) to the Marine Park go snorkelling (see Fig. 4.7). This is largely confined to the house reefs off the Marine Park Centre and the Langkawi Coral Pontoon, putting these two reefs under considerable visitor pressure (Plate 2). Occasionally, tour operators may bring visitors to Coral Garden for snorkelling, weather permitting. Many of these snorkellers have no prior knowledge of marine ecosystems, nor of the purposes and functions of the Marine Park. Only 38.92% of respondents rated the Marine Park status of the islands as an important factor in influencing choice of visit (see Fig. 4.4). The education and awareness programme of Pulau Payar Marine Park thus needs to be stepped up and improved to target this large group of reef users.

PLATE 2: Large numbers of snorkellers in front of the Marine Park Centre

Photo: WWFM/Li Ching Lim

Pulau Payar Marine Park is also fairly popular as a diving destination as attested to by 23.58% of respondents who participated in SCUBA diving activities (see Fig. 4.7). Yet, diving activity in Pulau Payar Marine Park is still considerably low, especially when compared to the industry on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Diving at Pulau Payar Marine Park is also more expensive when compared to diving on the East coast. Thus the diving industry mainly targets introductory divers rather than certified divers, as certified divers who are in the know would rather pay less and dive at better spots elsewhere in Malaysia.

Many people appreciate the natural resources of the Marine Park, especially that of the marine environment. Their activities also reflect this, once again emphasising that the island's attraction lies in its natural marine environment and the recreation opportunities it offers. A total of 54.16% of visitors interviewed rated the opportunity to dive and/or snorkel as a very important factor in influencing the choice of visit (see Fig. 4.4). It would thus be wise to manage Pulau Payar Marine Park with guidelines to safeguard both its terrestrial and marine environment, as to disregard it would be to destroy the very attraction that the island possesses.

Tourists from Pulau Langkawi who want to go snorkelling or diving do not really have a choice in terms of sites as Pulau Payar Marine Park is the only established and easily accessible, decent coral reef area with relatively good visibility on the west coast of the Peninsula. In addition, alternative sites in the Pulau Langkawi package are lacking, with tour operators concentrating mainly on islands such as Pulau Dayang Bunting, Pulau Singa and Pulau Beras Basah which are already receiving extremely large numbers of visitors themselves. Alternative sites around the Pulau Langkawi group of islands, both for divers/snorkellers and non-reef users, should be explored to divert and disperse visitor use, thus reducing visitor pressure on Pulau Payar Marine Park.

5.3 Management objectives

Since the waters of the Pulau Payar group of islands have been gazetted as a Marine Park, the management objectives of the area would have to comply with its current status. Section 41 of the Fisheries Act 1985 has provisions for establishing a Marine Park in order to:

· afford special protection to the aquatic flora and fauna, and to protect, preserve and manage the natural breeding grounds and habitats of aquatic life with particular regard to species of rare or endangered flora and fauna

· allow for the natural regeneration of aquatic life where such life has been depleted

· promote scientific study and research

· preserve and enhance the pristine state and productivity of the environment

· regulate recreational and other activities in order to avoid irreversible damage to the environment

Thus the two main objectives of the Marine Parks (Hiew & Abdul Rahim, 1996) are:

· to conserve and protect the marine ecosystem, especially coral reef areas, in order to ensure the sustainable usage of fisheries and marine resources in coastal waters

· to protect and manage the natural marine ecosystem for research on biodiversity, educational purposes and sustainable development of recreational/ecotourism activities.

There needs to be compatible recreational and tourist use of the Marine Park while simultaneously managing it to protect its resources. A balance is desired between encouraging public awareness and appreciation of the marine environment, yet not increasing on-site visitor use beyond its sustainable carrying capacity. It must be ensured that the education and research functions of the Marine Park do not conflict with biotic and genetic protection (White, 1988). It is also pertinent to note that tourism is important but is not the main objective of Marine Parks Malaysia. Instead, it is the conservation and preservation of the marine environment which is the priority. These factors themselves contribute to tourism, which is an objective of another aspect of Malaysian policy. The two issues need to be reconciled and considered when making management decisions.

It is crucial that explicitly stated objectives are spelled out for Pulau Payar Marine Park to enable appropriate management actions and to indicate acceptable resource and social conditions. The broad objectives of Marine Parks need to be further refined specifically for Pulau Payar Marine Park. Only then can management for desired social and environmental conditions within the limits of acceptable change be pursued with any success.

In addition, management objectives for the Marine Park should incorporate the objectives of the Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) for Pulau Payar Marine Park. The SAMP'S principal objective is to assure the conservation, protection, restoration and enhancement of the total natural community of living species and the unique resources of Pulau Payar Marine Park, both for maintaining balanced, indigenous populations which determine ecosystem health, and for the long-term vitality of human economic and recreational activities which depend on the renewable living resources. The SAMP'S goal is thus to manage the Marine Park and adjacent land areas of Pulau Langkawi and the mainland as habitat enhancement for the conservation and sustained production of the area's reef fishery resources.

5.4 Criteria that affect capacity

5.4.1 Physical criteria
5.4.2 Ecological criteria
5.4.3 Social criteria
5.4.4 Economic criteria
5.4.5 Availability of facilities and infrastructure
5.4.6 Development in Pulau Payar
5.4.7 Human threats to the coral reef environment


· Physical criteria

· Ecological criteria

· Social criteria

· Economic criteria

· Availability of facilities and infrastructure

- transportation
- solid waste disposal
- sewage disposal
- electricity supply
- water supply

· Development in Pulau Payar

· Human threats to the coral reef environment

- fishing
- pollution from sewage and solid waste
- reef-related tourism

5.4.1 Physical criteria

The steep terrain and lack of low-lying areas in Pulau Payar place a natural constraint on development on the island. Thus most of the island (30.6 hectares or 98.08%) is still relatively untouched. The other three islands are far too small to allow any sort of development or accommodation facilities. The lack of freshwater supply has also acted as a natural deterrent to any development of accommodation facilities on Pulau Payar. Furthermore, there are only four small beaches on Pulau Payar, with the one at the Marine Park Centre approximately 100 m long, leaving little room for any major infrastructure or facilities provision.

The Department of Fisheries Malaysia has a 0.6 hectare plot of land on which the Marine Park Centre is built, consisting of a small information centre, staff quarters, kitchen, toilets and a picnic area by the beach. The Marine Park Centre houses 17 tables and benches at a picnic area which is approximately 27.25 m x 5.75 m in area.

There are three toilets, two of which are for public use. The third toilet is kept locked and only meant for Marine Park staff use. There are no showers at the Marine Park Centre for public use.

A jet float (a floating platform approximately four metres square that snorkellers and swimmers can climb up onto) has been moored at the snorkelling area in front of the Marine Park Centre, at the reef edge. This enables snorkellers to rest and relax. This is possibly one of the means of preventing snorkellers from walking or resting on coral when they are tired. At present there are no rest floats (buoys that snorkellers and swimmers can hold on to rest while in the water) in the snorkelling area, although there are plans to put some up once a snorkelling area has been cordoned off after the new jetty is ready.

The Langkawi Coral Pontoon is moored permanently at the bay adjacent to the Marine Park Centre. It is 50 m x 15 m and can accommodate a maximum of 400 people, although at the moment maximum capacity is limited to the number of passengers that can be brought over from Pulau Langkawi by the catamaran (162 people maximum). There are 33 tables on the pontoon (Plate 3) and four showers for guest use. There are also 2 open showers for rinsing, and two toilets for staff use. Toilet use for guests is more or less restricted to the catamaran. The dive operator (East Marine) on the pontoon provides about 200 masks and snorkels for guests, and also has 80 sets of dive gear. In terms of diving, they have a minimum of six Dive Instructors or Dive Masters everyday on board the pontoon. They have their own compressor and 90 tanks. Langkawi Coral also has an underwater observatory and two glass-bottom boats which can take a maximum of 20 passengers per boat.

PLATE 3: On board the Langkawi Coral Pontoon

Photo: WWFM/Li Ching Lim

The physical carrying capacity of the coral reefs is dependent on the number of boats available to ferry divers and snorkellers to and from the reef. In addition, at the dive sites, the boatmen prefer to moor their boats rather than "hover" around waiting for their divers. The number of mooring buoys that the Department of Fisheries has made available sets a physical limit to the number of boats, and thus to the number of divers and snorkellers that can visit a particular reef. Mooring buoys also avoid the need for anchoring on reefs, an activity which can cause extensive physical damage to coral structures.

At the moment buoys are provided only off the Marine Park Centre and the Langkawi Coral Pontoon. The Department of Fisheries has put up six buoys off the Marine Park Centre whilst Sri Wani have put up four buoys around the Langkawi Coral Pontoon, and have also cordoned off a snorkelling area. More mooring buoys will be put up off the Marine Park Centre once the new jetty is ready. The chain anchoring the lone buoy at Coral Garden was recently broken. No buoys are provided at the other dive sites as the Department of Fisheries does not want the presence of buoys to encourage fishermen to moor at the reefs and fish.

Anchoring mooring buoys is a time-consuming and expensive business; consequently the number of buoys available is limited and often does not meet the demand, especially at peak periods. When there is an inadequate number of buoys to cater for boats, anchoring is likely to occur. The mooring buoys themselves come under threat from the monsoon, theft, vandalism and general wear and tear, so the number available varies frequently.

5.4.2 Ecological criteria

Coral reefs are by nature very fragile. The reef is a complex ecosystem, supported by an intricate interaction of biotic and abiotic factors. Its finely balanced ecosystem makes it vulnerable to changes in the environment, both natural and anthropogenic. Because reefs thrive only under very specific conditions, they are frequently disturbed by natural events such as storms, temperature fluctuations, predator outbreaks, terrestrial run-off and climatic disruptions (Wells & Price, 1992). Nonetheless, they are fairly resilient ecosystems and can recover from major damage provided that disturbances neither last too long or coincide with other disruptions, and that the damage is reasonably localised. However, human activities frequently lead to more widespread and long-lasting disturbances. Reefs can often withstand a certain level of stress, such as low-level tourism, for a long time, but the introduction of a second impact, for example increased pollution, may tip the balance and result in significant damage (Kinsey, 1988). In a situation like Pulau Payar Marine Park where the number of tourists visiting the Park is significantly high, pressure on the reefs can be acute, especially at the snorkelling areas in front of the Marine Park Centre and Langkawi Coral Pontoon. Coupled with the threats of illegal fishing on the reefs, and pollution, the reefs at the Marine Park are vulnerable and need proper management to ensure that environmental damage is controlled and minimised.

The reefs at Pulau Payar Marine Park have shown some signs of coral bleaching, especially at the Marine Park Centre House Reef and the Langkawi Coral Pontoon House Reef. Bleaching was first observed in Pulau Payar in March 1995 (Tan, 1996), with the worst afflicted reefs being the Acropora spp. and Porites spp. corals in the shallow reef flats. Although the causes of coral bleaching in Pulau Payar Marine Park have not been established it is indicative of a reef under stress.

Corals have been known to bleach in response to a number of stresses - elevated temperatures above normal maxima (which is the most common trigger), sudden decreases in temperature, UV radiation, low salinities, turbidity and/or reduced light levels, hypersaline water, exposure at abnormally low tides and doldrums (Hopley, 1997). Coral bleaching occurs when zooxanthellae are expelled from the coral polyps, revealing the corals' normally masked white skeleton. Since this would disrupt the zooxanthellae-polyp symbiotic relationship, corals then cannot grow or reproduce properly. When it is the zooxanthellae alone that are released, recolonisation by new unicellular algae may occur when the environment returns to 'normal'. However, in severe events whole endoderm cells from the coral polyp are released with the zooxanthellae and if a large proportion of the coral colony is affected, mortality is likely to occur (Hopley, 1997). Bleached corals are also more susceptible to other diseases and pathogenic organisms, and the phenomenon is often followed by the death or partial break-up of elaborate coral structures (Tan, 1996).

Studies have shown high amounts of phosphate and nitrate in the areas where corals had bleached in Pulau Payar Marine Park; excess amounts of the two nutrients are detrimental. These nutrients are believed to originate from Pulau Payar due to the lack of proper sewage treatment and disposal facilities on the island (Tan, 1996).

5.4.3 Social criteria

Perceptions of crowding have more to do with the nature of interactions, settings and visitor attributes and expectations than they do with user density (Watson, 1988). In a Marine Park setting which connotes some sort of wilderness experience, most people would expect a less crowded environment whereby emphasis is placed on appreciating the natural marine environment.

Visitor satisfaction may not necessarily be a good measure of social carrying capacity as the number of visitors may reach a point where the desired experience is no longer provided even though there may not be a noticeable reduction in satisfaction of the visitors present. Satisfaction will always be fairly high for current visitors to recreation areas, although their experiences may be drastically different from previous visitors (Watson, 1988). Nevertheless, visitor satisfaction can still act as a useful indicator for social carrying capacity. In addition, the consequences of visitor dissatisfaction with Pulau Payar Marine Park will have to be weighed in relation to the effect on the tourism industry, not only in the Marine Park itself, but also in Pulau Langkawi as the two are closely linked and jointly promoted.

5.4.4 Economic criteria

The proximity of Pulau Payar Marine Park to the international tourist destinations of Pulau Langkawi and Pulau Pinang has contributed greatly to its expansion as a tourism centre. Pulau Langkawi has been extensively promoted abroad, with direct flights from Japan and in the near future, Taiwan. A trip to Pulau Payar Marine Park is often on the itinerary of package tours and promoted as the main selling point of Pulau Langkawi. Since there are no other alternative diving/snorkelling areas within the vicinity that are as extensively promoted, Pulau Payar Marine Park is thus the main destination for those wanting to snorkel or dive.

At present, much of the revenue earned from these trips benefit Pulau Langkawi directly, and not the Marine Park, as most tour operators are based in Pulau Langkawi and most of the tourists stay there too. None of the economic benefits of tourism to Pulau Payar Marine Park are channelled back into the conservation and management of the Marine Park. The setting up of a fee structure for entry into the Marine Park should be looked into to ensure that the revenue earned from tourism benefits the Marine Park as well. This is currently being explored by the Department of Fisheries, Malaysia. Proposals include fees for entry to Marine Parks, fees for undertaking recreational activities, annual deposits from commercial boats, entry fees for private boats, fees for mooring pontoons, fees for conducting EIA monitoring programmes and insurance fees. The proposed entry fee structure that is currently being explored by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia is two-tiered, with foreign individuals paying a sum of RM 8.00, and Malaysians paying RM 4.00. Students and senior citizens are charged half these prices, while local communities and fishermen are exempted. This fee structure is however currently being reviewed at the recommendation of the National Advisory Council for Marine Parks and Marine Reserves which would rather implement a single tiered and less discriminatory entry fee.

An individual's willingness-to-pay is a measure of the economic value placed on being able to undertake specific marine tourist activities and on being able to visit specific marine and coastal tourist sites (Wong, 1997). Preliminary results of the questionnaire survey show that most tourists and tour operators are willing to pay a small fee for entry to the Marine Park or to be able to participate in certain activities, provided that this money is channelled towards the conservation and management of the Marine Park. Revenue generated from the fees should be used to manage the site, repair damages to the natural resources or infrastructure, or to implement environmental mitigation measures (Wong, 1997). In addition, of an entry fee or user fee could help reduce the number of visitors to the Marine Park. It would attract only those who are willing to pay. These visitors are often also more environmentally aware and responsible.

It is obviously the natural marine environment that attracts visitors to Pulau Payar Marine Park in the first place. Promotion of the area must be in line with its Marine Park objectives and must emphasise the conservation aspects of the Park. The promotion of Pulau Langkawi and Pulau Payar Marine Park thus has to be closely monitored, as it can affect the number and type of tourists coming in. Mass tourism to Pulau Payar Marine Park is not desirable, and the relevant agencies need to ensure that the conservation values of the Marine Park are maintained by targeting tourists who are environmentally aware and responsible.

5.4.5 Availability of facilities and infrastructure

The majority of visitors to the island found the transportation and infrastructural facilities, as well as amenities, satisfactory or good (see Fig. 4.8).

(a) Transportation

The vast majority of tourists (94.49%) interviewed found the boat transportation to Pulau Payar Marine Park at least satisfactory or good (see Fig. 4.8). Boats to the Marine Park normally take a maximum of 12 passengers. These boats are modem, fast and comfortable speedboats; there are thus no major complaints about transportation to the Marine Park. In addition, 54.55% of the tour operators interviewed were of the opinion that there are currently enough boats available to ferry visitors to Pulau Payar Marine Park.

(b) Solid waste disposal

The Marine Park Centre provides rubbish bins for tourists, as well as sells bin liners for 20 sen a piece to tour operators. The tour operators are thus responsible for ensuring that solid waste generated by tourists coming to the Marine Park is collected in the bin liners and brought back to wherever they came from for disposal. This is one of the conditions given to tour operators for obtaining a permit to visit the Marine Park. The operators of the Langkawi Coral Pontoon also bag and bring their solid waste back to Pulau Langkawi for disposal.

The onus is thus on tour operators to ensure that solid waste disposal does not become a problem for Pulau Payar Marine Park. To date, this system seems to work effectively. Unfortunately, there have been reports of a few unscrupulous individuals who have been known to throw their waste into the sea on the way back to Pulau Langkawi, Pulau Pinang or Kuala Kedah. Continued education of tour operators and boatmen should ensure that the waste returns to these areas. However, the transportation of solid waste and subsequent disposal in Pulau Langkawi, Pulau Pinang or Kuala Kedah invariably shifts the problem of waste disposal elsewhere. In order to ensure that the practice of transporting solid waste back to these places does not create further problems, there have to be adequate reception and disposal facilities set up in Pulau Langkawi, Pulau Pinang and Kuala Kedah to cope with the influx of solid waste from Pulau Payar Marine Park. Appropriate guidelines on solid waste disposal must also be formulated to ensure that disposal practices do not carry on unregulated.

Littering by tourists sometimes occurs in the Marine Park. Especially a problem are the plastic bags which contain food to feed the fish; a lot of this is often left on the jet float and has to be collected by Marine Park staff. In addition, tourists do complain about vast amounts of rubbish washing up onto the beach. This waste is probably not generated by the Marine Park itself nor from tourists to the Marine Park, but is brought in by tides and currents from possible source areas like Pulau Langkawi and the mainland. Nevertheless, it is an eyesore and needs to be dealt with effectively. The rubbish is usually collected by Marine Park staff every morning and burnt. Recyclable items like glass and aluminium cans are collected and sent back to Kuala Kedah for recycling. In addition, solid waste generated by the Marine Park itself, and waste from the toilets, is also burnt.

In the short term, the action of burning waste on the island seems sufficient. However, in the long term, there needs to be a proper, well-managed solid waste disposal system for the island. The option of disposal by landfills or pits in the long term is not viable because of space constraints as well as further contamination problems via leaching to groundwater and escape of gasses. Small-scale incineration is another option for the island, although by itself it can lead to further problems such as the release of noxious gases and contaminants. In addition, there is the problem of disposing of ash particles, which may themselves concentrate pollutants. It is recommended that solid waste be bagged and shipped back to Kuala Kedah along with the recyclable glass and plastic that is returned already. Although the transportation of waste back to the mainland will invariably shift the problem elsewhere, facilities on the mainland are much better able to cope with the problem than the island. As such, the transportation of waste to the mainland is probably the best option for the island, provided that are adequate reception and disposal facilities there.

First and foremost however, a reduction in the generation of waste should be advocated. The Department of Fisheries, Malaysia, should implement a proper education scheme for visitors on the reduction of waste and promote civic consciousness among tourists, as well as implement an appropriate waste separation and recycling programme. The separation of waste is important; organic waste can be composted, bottles and plastic containers reused, and recyclables recycled. Recycling as an option has not been explored fully; recycling of paper, cans, glass and plastic bottles should be practised and can also be sold to obtain revenue.

(c) Sewage disposal

There are currently two toilets at the Marine Park Centre, definitely not enough for the number of visitors (Plate 4). But there are plans to put in two more toilets for tourists, and two attached to the new staff quarters currently under construction. Sewage disposal for the Marine Park Centre is effected by means of septic tanks. These have overflown before, with serious environmental implications. Furthermore, with no freshwater available for visitor use, these toilets are flushed with seawater. This increases the salinity in the septic tank and obstructs natural degradation processes (Tan, 1996). There is thus the danger of contamination of inshore waters, especially in the light of the high and increasing number of tourists at the Marine Park.

Langkawi Coral prefer to ask their guests to use the toilets on the catamaran although there are now two toilets on the pontoon. Sewage is stored in a tank and then periodically pumped out onto the catamaran. The Langkawi Coral catamaran is supposed to bring the sewage back to Pulau Langkawi for disposal. Unfortunately, Pulau Langkawi does not have reception facilities for this, so reportedly, sewage is dumped into the sea on the way back to Pulau Langkawi. It is thus essential that proper sewage reception and disposal facilities are available at Pulau Langkawi so as not to create further problems of sewage disposal for the island. If the option of transporting sewage back to Pulau Langkawi is not available, Langkawi Coral will have to continue flushing sewage into the sea; although the assimilative capacity of the sea is relatively vast, it would be much better to treat and dispose of the waste properly at Pulau Langkawi.

PLATE 4: Tourists queuing for the toilets at Pulau Payar Marine Park Centre

Photo: WWFM/Li Ching Lim

The implementation of a proper sewage disposal system is crucial for the island. Septic tanks are not sufficient, in the light of the high numbers of visitors and the porous nature of the coastal soils. Alternative technology and the feasibility for implementation in the Marine Park should be examined, for example, the use of composting toilets which do not depend on water.

Perhaps the feasibility of having a small treatment plant on the island itself should be further examined. Then the sewage can be treated appropriately, and further disposed of. The main principle of sewage treatment is to reduce the polluting capacity of the waste water by enabling bacteria to oxidise the organic matter within the treatment plant, rather than to let this process take place in the water course. Even with primary and secondary treatment, nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are still discharged (Irving, 1993), and these affect coral reefs adversely. Nutrient stripping should thus be introduced to any sewage treatment works planned. Ideally, treatment should be done until the tertiary level, which removes all organic matter and nutrients.

Disposal options include outfalls to the sea or incineration. If outfalls are considered, factors like distance from the coast, and the extent of sewage treatment must be first examined. The diversion of outfalls away from reefs, into deep water, or on to an open, well-flushed coast is preferable, especially if treatment is not sufficient. Again, treatment to the tertiary level is the best option.

Another alternative for sewage disposal would be the introduction of portable toilets to be provided by tour operators (Tan, 1996). Waste can then be brought back to either Pulau Langkawi or Pulau Pinang for proper disposal. To ensure that this system works, it is crucial that proper reception and disposal facilities are provided in the respective places.

(d) Electricity supply

The Marine Park currently has a 5.5 kva diesel generator which is only switched on at night. Some lights in the Centre itself operate on solar energy generated by solar panels. With the completion of the new jetty, they will obtaining a 50 kva generator to cater for the anticipated increase in electricity demand. This should be sufficient for future needs, as well as for electrical equipment such as a TV set, a video cassette player and slide projector during the day. Langkawi Coral have their own generator on board which is sufficient to cater for their needs. Where possible, the use of more efficient low-wattage incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs should be encouraged (MOCAT/WWF Malaysia 1996).

(e) Water supply

The Pulau Payar group of islands do not have any freshwater supply. At the Marine Park Centre, rain water is stored in tanks for staff use. There are now new 24,000 gallon tanks at the Marine Park, bringing total capacity to 36,000 gallons. Water is used sparingly, as supply is very dependent on rainfall. No freshwater is supplied in the toilets, which is a major complaint from tourists. It is unlikely however, that any fresh water will be supplied in the toilets, even with the new tanks. Sea water will continue to be used. Fresh water is brought in to the Langkawi Coral Pontoon by the catamaran and is adequate to cater for the pontoon's daily needs. Due to the difficulty in obtaining fresh water on the island, it is important that the water resources are conserved and used wisely (MOCAT/WWF Malaysia, 1996).

5.4.6 Development in Pulau Payar

Since there are no accommodation facilities on Pulau Payar for tourists, and the island is predominantly a day trip destination, associated negative impacts from development such as land clearing and sedimentation are not as great a problem, as seen in the Marine Parks on the east coast. Any development on Pulau Payar has been minimal and seen as necessary, confined to improving the infrastructure and facilities of the Marine Park.

Construction of a new jetty is under way at Pulau Payar Marine Park, which is expected to be ready by the end of 1996. This project is undertaken by the Public Works Department (Jabatan Kerja Raya). The jetty extends about 50 m out to sea, and there will be a 50 m long floating pontoon at the end to facilitate the landing of boats. However, during the course of the study, a storm broke one of the chains holding the construction barge, causing a relatively large area of destruction to the reef adjacent.

Alongside the jetty construction, a new walkway connecting the beach in front of the Marine Park Centre to the next bay (the beach in front of the Langkawi Coral pontoon) has also been constructed. It has gazebos and resting areas, and the intention is to utilise these to put information boards up.

New staff quarters housing one room for staff and one room for guests have also been constructed. It has two attached bathrooms. A new room to house the new generator has also been constructed and there are plans to build two more toilets for tourists.

5.4.7 Human threats to the coral reef environment

The reef environment, being fragile, is subject to many threats, both natural and anthropogenic. The natural cycle of growth and erosion determines reef development; this cycle is thrown out of balance by widespread and long-lasting disturbances attributed to humans (Wells & Price, 1992). Reefs may be able to withstand low level threats, but the introduction of a second impact often tips the balance and results in damage.

Impacts of human use on the reefs occur directly and indirectly. Direct impacts include harvesting of reef resources such as fish, shells and corals, anchor damage, damage to reefs by divers or snorkellers who step on them, use of spear guns, and grounding on reefs by boats. Indirect impacts which arise as a consequence of land use include land-based sources of pollution such as sedimentation, eutrophication, chemical pollution, oil and grease pollution, as well as construction on and around reefs. Desludging of ships is also a source of marine pollution.

Human activity at Pulau Payar Marine Park threatens its reefs in three main ways:

(a) Illegal fishing
(b) Pollution from sewage and solid waste
(c) Reef-related tourism

These factors are not mutually exclusive, but may interact to bring about adverse effects on the reef environment.

(a) Illegal fishing

Coral reefs are the breeding, feeding and nursery grounds for many marine species, some of which are of commercial value. Consequently, they are popular and profitable fishing grounds for commercial fishing operations. Unfortunately, the fishermen often have little regard for the fragile reef that is supporting their catch; anchor damage and coral smothered in entangled and abandoned nets are all too common sights. Fishing activities often tend to be indiscriminate in terms of fish size and species; using a small mesh means that juvenile commercial fish and reef fish are also caught. This disturbs the balance of the complex food web of the reef; similarly it is detrimental to the reef ecosystem to catch the large predators, many of whom take years to reach sexual maturity.

The reefs of Pulau Payar Marine Park are rich in fish life, some of which are of commercial value. In addition, the large schools of juvenile fish present indicate that some of the reefs in the area are nursery and breeding grounds (Ridzwan & De Silva, 1982). Traditionally, the waters around the Pulau Payar archipelago have been fishing grounds for fishermen from the coastal communities in Kedah, especially around Kuala Kedah. Pulau Payar has in the past been also used as a sheltering place for fishing vessels particularly during the monsoon period.

The designation of the Pulau Payar group of islands as a Marine Park in 1989 gave the Department of Fisheries the power to enforce a ban on all fishing activities within two nautical miles of the islands. However, at several of the reefs there is evidence of illegal fishing activities e.g. the presence of nets on the reefs and fishing vessels in the vicinity of the reefs. Illegal fishing appears to be a more common occurrence at Pulau Segantang despite the Marine Park ban; in fact during the course of the field work for this report Marine Park staff confiscated a vessel which was fishing illegally at Pulau Segantang. Dive operators who visit Pulau Segantang often allege that illegal fishing occurs commonly there, and complain about nets on the reef.

To combat the problem of illegal fishing at Pulau Payar Marine Park, enforcement of the no fishing regulations must be strict. Regular patrols should be conducted by the Department of Fisheries, especially to Pulau Segantang. In addition, an effective programme to raise awareness among the fishing communities of Kuala Kedah about the benefits of protecting coral reefs is necessary. Fishermen must be made to understand that the ban on fishing at the Marine Park is crucial to ensure that the degradation of the reef community is not perpetuated by fishing activities and that fisheries resources are protected for the long-term sustainability of the fisheries industry of the area.

(b) Pollution from sewage and solid waste

Marine pollution is the most serious, persistent and fast-growing threat to the marine environment, A wide variety of contaminants, including sediments, sewage, oil and synthetic organic chemicals adversely affect marine species, populations, and ecosystems (Pullen & Hurst, 1993). Land-based sources of marine pollution (including atmospheric deposition) account for about 77% of marine pollution globally (GESAMP, 1990).

Pulau Payar Marine Park, as the only clear-water coral reef area on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, is a unique area in the Straits of Melaka. However, the Straits receive pollutants from three main categories of sources - agricultural, industrial, and domestic wastes come from land-based activities discharging directly into the ocean or indirectly to rivers emptying into the ocean (Dow, 1995). In addition, sea-based sources of marine pollution include the operational and accidental discharges from tankers and other shipping vessels as well as the fishing fleet. High levels of total suspended solids, the faecal coliform Escherichia coli, and oil and grease are prevalent pollutants in the Straits of Melaka. The number of oil spill incidents in 1995 numbered 26, as compared to five in 1994 and 11 in 1993.

The proximity of Pulau Payar Marine Park to Pulau Langkawi and Pulau Pinang also makes it intrinsically vulnerable to pollution from these two urbanised and populated islands. According to a recent newspaper report, "The major ocean currents wash from Pulau Langkawi to Pulau Pinang, and back to Pulau Langkawi. Pulau Payar, sitting in the middle of the path, becomes the recipient of whatever pollution originates from the two developed islands" (Tan, 1996).

Aside from the ambient pollution already present in the Straits of Melaka and by virtue of its proximity to Pulau Langkawi and Pulau Pinang, at Pulau Payar Marine Park, the main pollutants would be sewage and solid waste. These pollution problems are an indirect impact of the increasing numbers of tourists to the Marine Park.

Eutrophication, the process of nutrient enrichment in water bodies, is a major cause of decline of reefs. Nutrients enter the marine environment naturally, and a trophic equilibrium is maintained if inputs balance outputs; man however frequently upsets this delicate balance. Both nitrogen (usually in the form of nitrate) and phosphorus (usually in the form of phosphate) are key elements in the eutrophication process, and it is the ratio of the two which determines whether or not the process occurs. At Pulau Payar Marine Park, the main sources of nutrients would be from sewage run-off from the Marine Park Centre and possibly the Langkawi Coral Pontoon.

Although nutrient enrichment will increase marine productivity initially, there is an overall decrease in biodiversity as opportunistic species outcompete pollution-sensitive ones. Changes in species composition will also occur, depending on the relative amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus available. This may have knock-on effects throughout the food web as many zooplankton grazers have distinct feeding preferences (Irving, 1993). The increase in nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen also tends to favour the growth of phytoplankton and algae. Increased nutrient inputs in reef areas are thought to promote algal growth to the detriment of coral species, as they outcompete corals for light and nutrients (Pullen & Hurst, 1993). Algal blooms may be toxic in nature, and extensive blooms promote light attenuation, hence preventing light from reaching photosynthesising species. This would affect the photosynthetic capability of the coral-associated zooxanthellae, thus decreasing reef productivity. As a bloom dies off, it can smother benthic communities, as well as result in anoxic conditions as it decomposes. The depletion of oxygen can further lead to fish kills and benthos mortalities, especially in shallow, semi-enclosed basins.

Tourism at Pulau Payar Marine Park has also brought in additional problems like the generation of solid waste, especially given the lack of adequate disposal facilities. Solid waste that is disposed of in the sea, or inadequately disposed of such that it ends up in the sea, can settle on reefs and destroy them. Plastic strapping and packaging bands can entangle and girdle marine mammals and large fish and become progressively tighter as the animal grows, restricting movement, respiration and feeding (Pullen & Hurst, 1993). Plastic bags especially can smother reefs, and can suffocate and strangle marine organisms such as birds, turtles and mammals. Death can also be brought about by the accidental ingestion of litter. In addition, rubbish washed ashore is not aesthetically pleasing to tourists. The questionnaire survey results show that having clean beaches is the most important criterion for a satisfactory visit to Pulau Payar Marine Park for snorkellers (70.80%) and is also important for non-reef users (55.91%) (see Fig. 4.11).

For a more comprehensive discussion on possible solutions to the sewage and solid waste disposal problems at Pulau Payar Marine Park, please refer to Section 5.4.5 (b) and Section 5.4.5 (c) respectively.

(c) Reef-related tourism

The world's coral reefs have become a major attraction, as SCUBA diving has become one of the most popular and fastest growing sports internationally. This has lead to certain diving and snorkelling destinations (islands in particular) being subjected to considerable pressure. Problems associated with diving include breaking coral branches for souvenirs, fin damage (generally as a result of inexperience and poor buoyancy control), spear fishing, shell collection (often live), dive boat anchoring, littering and boats beaching on shallow reefs.

The extent to which reef tourism and associated recreational activities can directly damage reefs may be far greater than previously believed. This is demonstrated by the fact that popular reefs in the Caribbean and other top tourist destinations such as Hawaii are starting to suffer increasing damage (Wells & Price, 1992). Furthermore, dive sites in the Ras Mohammad Marine Park in the Red Sea, which attract large numbers of diving enthusiasts, have been found to have significantly more dead coral than less popular dive sites (Hawkins & Roberts, 1992). At Pulau Payar Marine Park, this phenomenon is particularly evident at the Langkawi Coral Pontoon House Reef, whereby dead coral cover is high (46.2%) compared to the control site (19.3%). Although this may be due to a combination of effects, snorkeller and diver damage cannot be ruled out as a possible cause for the decline in coral cover seen, given the high numbers of snorkellers and divers who frequent that particular reef.

Snorkellers are harder to control and monitor during their time in the water; this is particularly evident at Pulau Payar Marine Park. Any visitor can hire a mask, snorkel, and fins set, and swim or float (many visitors to the island are unable to swim) over the shallow reef. Many of the snorkellers appear ignorant of the fragility of the coral reef ecosystem; when this ignorance is combined with poor swimming ability, considerable damage is likely to be done to the reef structures from trampling and breaking of coral. Damage is more likely to occur at low tide when the reef is within easy reach. Despite signs showing prohibited activities in the Marine Park, some coral and shell collection for souvenirs does occur as well. In addition, the current practice of boats coming in over coral at low tide to drop visitors off at the Marine Park Centre causes physical destruction when propellers and the hulls of boats hit fragile coral structures.

A comprehensive education and awareness programme targeting snorkellers specifically should be implemented for Pulau Payar Marine Park. Raising awareness about the fragility and benefits of the coral reef ecosystem will help towards fostering a more careful attitude in the water. In addition, enforcement must be effected to ensure that tourists do not collect coral and shells. Tour and boat operators should also be responsible for the actions of their guests. Furthermore, boats should not be allowed to pass over reef areas at low tide, and this should be strictly enforced.

When compared to the majority of snorkellers, divers present considerably less potential damage to a reef due to their thorough training and hopefully greater awareness. The actions of the divers can also be controlled to some extent by Dive Masters or Dive Instructors who can give briefings, and take groups to reefs suited to their abilities and experience.

5.5 Carrying capacity assessment

5.5.1 Tourism carrying capacity
5.5.2 Reef carrying capacity

5.5.1 Tourism carrying capacity

Tourism is a major industry, both for Pulau Langkawi and for Pulau Payar Marine Park, but inappropriate tourism expansion can consequently bring about adverse effects on the environment. The carrying capacity concept, although not able to produce a "magic number" that can dictate the number of tourists and divers that the Marine Park can support, is valuable in highlighting the criteria that affect capacity and the causes of any decline in capacity. The traditional concept of carrying capacity is not without its limitations, and is modified here to highlight actions that may be taken to minimise or limit adverse anthropogenic impacts on the coral reef environment. The concept is thus used as a management tool to generate guidelines for development and tourism to ensure that any changes that occur in the ecological, physical, social and economic environment of Pulau Payar Marine Park are acceptable.

(a) Physical carrying capacity

Findings of this assessment, as described in this study, indicate that physical carrying capacity of visitors may be reached at levels of visitation during this study, especially in terms of space at the Marine Park Centre. The beach in front of the Centre is small (only about 100 m long), and at high tide is completely submerged. There are not enough tables and chairs to cater for the large numbers of visitors especially at peak periods (Plate 5). At such times, many of the visitors are crammed onto tables evidently not large enough, or do not even have a place to sit down. This situation is unacceptable in terms of providing adequate facilities for visitors. Already the majority of tourists interviewed found it crowded at the Marine Park, especially at the picnic area at the Marine Park Centre itself (64.47% of those interviewed) (see Fig. 4.9).

Space on the Langkawi Coral Pontoon is adequate as it can cater for a maximum of 400 people whilst at present, numbers are limited by the number of passengers that the catamaran can take (162 people).

At present, the number of boats available is enough to cater for tourists and divers, with the number of boats coming into Pulau Payar Marine Park depending on the demand, which there are no problems meeting currently. In fact, at peak periods, the number of boats at the Marine Park jetty is very large, making it crowded and potentially unsafe for visitors embarking or disembarking (Plate 6). In light of the high numbers of boats already coming into the Marine Park, potentially causing oil and grease or hydrocarbon pollution, and the adequacy of transportation, there should not be any efforts to increase boat traffic to the Marine Park.

PLATE 5: Large numbers of visitors at Pulau Payar Marine Park Centre

Photo: WWFM/Li Ching Lim

PLATE 6: Large numbers of boats at the Marine Park jetty

Photo: WWFM/Li Ching Lim

The snorkelling area in front of the Marine Park Centre can also get pretty crowded at peak periods, especially on the jet float. However, crowding in the water is not as acutely felt as on land (48.93% of visitors interviewed found it crowded at the Marine Park Centre snorkelling area and 40.83% found it crowded at the Langkawi Coral Pontoon snorkelling area, as opposed to 64.47% of visitors finding it crowded at the Marine Park Centre itself). Of more concern would be the potential damage that careless snorkellers can cause to the reef environment.

Disposal of solid waste on the island could be further improved so as not to undermine the values of the Marine Park (see Section 5.4.5 (b)). This is of increasing urgency in light of the high volume of waste generated by the increasing numbers of visitors to the Marine Park.

The number of toilets at the Marine Park Centre are evidently inadequate. Two usable toilets are definitely not enough to cater for the hundreds of tourists that flood the Marine Park everyday. The lack of proper toilet facilities would cause dissatisfaction among the tourists. Already 64.16% of those surveyed found the toilet facilities at the Marine Park Centre inadequate. Similarly, a study by Wong (1996) which surveyed tour operators showed that tour operators found the toilet facilities at the Marine Park to be inadequate to extremely inadequate. In addition, the sewage disposal facilities on the island also need to be improved as the septic tanks cannot cope with such high numbers of tourists and the possibility of sewage contamination of the surrounding waters cannot be excluded (see Section 5.4.5 (c)).

Facilities like water and electricity supply are considered adequate to meet present and future needs, especially with the introduction of the new water tanks and new generator.

It is recommended that no accommodation facilities for tourists be allowed on any of the four islands of the Marine Park (Aikanathan & Wong, 1994). The focus should thus be on upgrading and improving existing facilities to ensure continued visitor satisfaction.

(b) Social carrying capacity

In social carrying capacity research, the emphasis is no longer on user numbers as there is no fixed value for any recreational setting. The determination of social carrying capacity for Pulau Payar Marine Park is ultimately a value judgement that needs to be made by the Marine Park managers based on the nature of the various experiences that managers wish to provide for visitors and the standards by which managers have chosen to measure those experiences (Watson, 1988).

Since the majority of tourists surveyed (64.47%) found if crowded at the Marine Park, especially at the Centre itself, the social carrying capacity with respect to crowding is probably reached due to the high numbers of visitors to the island (see Fig. 4.9). In addition, a recent study found that 75% of 13 tour operators interviewed found the beach/picnic area of the Marine Park crowded (Wong, 1996).

Although an increase in visitor numbers may not necessarily result in visitor dissatisfaction (Graefe et al, 1984), 73.97% of respondents felt that an increase in visitor numbers would affect their enjoyment of Pulau Payar Marine Park. In general, visitor satisfaction is fair; however from the survey results it is evident that there are some aspects of visitor experience which are important to tourists, but were not adequately met at Pulau Payar Marine Park. These include the lack of information provision on the marine environment, the lack of adequate facilities especially toilets and the presence of large numbers of other tourists, especially at the Marine Park Centre and the Langkawi Coral Pontoon (see Fig. 4.12).

The consequences of visitor dissatisfaction with Pulau Payar Marine Park would affect the tour package as a whole and therefore the Pulau Langkawi tourism industry. This needs to be seriously considered in planning by the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA), the Kedah State government and the Department of Fisheries Malaysia. Planning for Pulau Payar Marine Park must be integrated with the overall planning and management of Pulau Langkawi, taking into account the specific needs of the Marine Park.

Diving norms where divers would prefer not to see any other diving groups or dive boats at a dive site or where they would tolerate up to two encounter incidences can act as an example of ideal conditions for Pulau Payar Marine Park. Currently however, the diving industry in Pulau Payar Marine Park is relatively unsaturated so there is general satisfaction in terms of perception of crowding at dive sites.

Divers are generally still satisfied with their diving experiences on the island, and are happy with the facilities and standards of diving operations. This is reflected in quite a large proportion of divers (58.82%) wanting to dive at Pulau Payar Marine Park again (see Fig. 4.19). Hence, it can be said that the social carrying capacity with regards to diver satisfaction has yet to be reached. However, some important factors that contribute towards a satisfactory dive experience were not met at Pulau Payar Marine Park, the most obvious being good visibility (see Fig. 4.18). Of course, visibility would vary with weather conditions, and in general, visibility at Pulau Payar Marine Park is much worse than on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is important then that dive operators inform their divers of this situation so as not to raise expectations, and instead highlight the good points of diving in the area, such as the abundance and diversity of fish they are likely to see on a dive. Another fairly important factor that was not met at Pulau Payar Marine Park was low dive trip costs (see Fig. 4.18). Although divers generally do not mind paying for diving, the cost of diving at Pulau Payar is higher than on the East Coast, and probably not as good, thus causing some dissatisfaction in this area. Divers would also like to see minimal damage to coral reefs when diving (62.00% of those surveyed) (see Fig. 4.17), however only 40.54% of divers stated that this criterion was met (see Fig. 4.18).

5.5.2 Reef carrying capacity

A summary is presented at the end of this section, in Table 5.1.

(a) Marine Park Centre House Reef

The reef situated in front of the Marine Park Centre is the most intensively used reef in the Pulau Payar Marine Park, coming under considerable pressure from snorkellers, introductory divers, the construction of the new jetty and walkway, as well as pollution from land-based sources. It is very accessible and practically all visitors to Pulau Payar Marine Park would snorkel or dive there (83.33% of dive operators interviewed regularly bring their customers there). It is also a fairly shallow reef which is sheltered, presenting ideal conditions for snorkellers especially.

The reef is made up of a large proportion of live hard coral (75.7%), consisting mainly of large areas of branching (51.4%) and massive (41.3%) corals. Branching coral lifeforms are more easily damaged physically than the massive and encrusting lifeforms whose coralline skeletons are less easily broken. Fortunately, the most physically fragile part of the reef is in water too deep to suffer from either direct snorkeller or propeller contact and is therefore relatively healthy when compared to the coral nearer the beach, much of which is dead already. Parts of the reef in very shallow water have evidently suffered physically from both snorkeller and propeller damage at low tide, particularly in areas of Porites spp. growth. Despite signs of damage, the overall extent of dead hard coral is surprisingly, comparatively low (16.5%), similar to that at the control site (19.3%). The reef appears to have evolved and stabilized to a degree to cope with the many pressures imposed on it, as a result the physical carrying capacity could be considered to be moderate. Since this is the site of the majority of the tourist activity there is potential for using the reef as a "sacrificial" site rather than developing other areas as visitor numbers increase.

Social carrying capacity is fairly high at the Marine Park Centre House Reef because it is predominantly used as a snorkelling destination, and the average snorkelling tourist and introductory diver tends to be less concerned with reef user interaction than the high fee paying diver. The snorkellers arrive in groups and take to the water in groups; the number of people surrounding them in the water seems of little consequence. Nonetheless, about 48.93% of visitors do find it crowded while snorkelling at the Marine Park Centre House Reef, as compared to 64.47% of visitors finding it crowded on land, at the Marine Park Centre itself. This could be an indication that, although fairly high, the social carrying capacity of this particular reef is in danger of being exceeded.

The major threat to the Marine Park Centre House Reef seems to be its accessibility to large swimming and snorkelling groups who stand on, knock, and sometimes purposely break off coral branches as souvenirs. Boats passing over the reef at low tide to disembark visitors also cause extensive physical damage. In addition, many of the snorkellers and introductory divers that utilize the reef are inexperienced and may cause accidental physical damage. Another potential serious threat to the Marine Park Centre House Reef is that of sewage pollution from the Marine Park Centre. There are already signs of coral bleaching, and although this phenomenon cannot be conclusively linked to sewage pollution, the possibility cannot be excluded. Already studies have shown high amounts of phosphate and nitrate in the areas of bleached corals. These nutrients are believed to originate from Pulau Payar due to the lack of proper sewage treatment and disposal facilities on the island (Tan, 1996).

(b) Langkawi Coral Pontoon House Reef

The Langkawi Coral Pontoon is a 50 m x 15 m floating platform similar to those found on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and is capable of accommodating a maximum of 400 visitors, however the catamaran connecting the pontoon with Pulau Langkawi can carry up to 162 passengers per trip. The pontoon is used as a swimming, snorkelling and diving platform and has an underwater observation chamber that enables guests to appreciate the reef environment without getting wet! The platform provides direct access to the reef for many visitors doing introductory dives and snorkelling, as well as makes the reef accessible to non-diving visitors. Consequently, the reef is under considerable pressure from snorkelling and diving activities despite the constant presence of lifeguards and Dive Masters who monitor visitor activities in an attempt to reduce damage to the reef. The reef is also fairly shallow and sheltered, making it ideal for snorkellers and introductory divers.

Despite the high levels of massive coral present (56.6%), the physical carrying capacity of the Langkawi Coral Pontoon House Reef is relatively low. This is largely due to the ease of access afforded to large numbers of reef-users everyday of the year and the shallow nature of the water above much of the reef. In addition, the reef faces many threats from various sources. At present, levels of live and dead hard coral are similar, at 48.2% and 46.2% respectively. Dead coral cover is worryingly high, especially when compared to the control site which has a live coral cover of 73.6%.

The high level of dead coral can be attributed to several factors. The pontoon itself creates a shadowing effect over a large strip of the reef and this is believed to have reduced the photosynthetic activity of the zooxanthellae that are associated with coral polyps. Consequently, the health of the reef has suffered. In addition, much of the reef to the landward side of the pontoon is shallow and is often damaged by snorkellers. Also, since the reef is largely utilized by introductory divers, their inexperience could result in poor buoyancy control and hence accidental damage to the reef. Construction of the new jetty and boardwalk on Pulau Payar has also resulted in considerable amounts of debris being deposited on the reef, not only damaging the reef but also reducing its aesthetic appeal considerably. There are already signs of coral bleaching, and although this phenomenon cannot be conclusively linked to sewage pollution, the possibility cannot be excluded. Already studies have shown high amounts of phosphate and nitrate in the areas of bleached corals. These nutrients are believed to originate from Pulau Payar due to the lack of proper sewage treatment and disposal facilities on the island (Tan, 1996). The possibility of sewage contamination from the pontoon itself should not be overlooked either.

The social carrying capacity of the Langkawi Coral Pontoon House Reef is fairly high for the same reasons that it is at the Marine Park Centre House Reef i.e. the average snorkelling tourist and introductory diver tends to be less concerned with reef user interaction than the high fee paying diver. Nonetheless, about 40.83% of visitors do find it crowded while snorkelling at the Langkawi Coral Pontoon House Reef, as compared to 64.47% of visitors finding it crowded on land, at the Marine Park Centre itself. This could be an indication that, although fairly high, the social carrying capacity of the reef is in danger of being exceeded.

(c) Coral Garden

The so-called Coral Garden on the southwestern tip of Pulau Payar was once described as " of the most colourful underwater localities in Malaysia. This area will perhaps be second to none in the world during clearwater periods..." (De Silva & Ridzwan 1982). While still being the most visited and most popular dive site in the Pulau Payar group of islands (all the dive operators interviewed bring their divers there), this quote seems unlikely today since the diversity of soft corals seems to be less than that reported in the past. Nonetheless, soft coral still has the largest coverage at 32.7% and there is also 30.7% live hard coral cover. In addition, 21.1% of the area is covered with other marine invertebrates such as anemones and sponges. Dead hard coral cover is fairly low, 13.9%, comparable to the control site (19.3%).

Coral Garden is visited by dive groups almost everyday since it is easily accessible from the Marine Park Centre. The diving is interesting since the area is situated on the rocky tip of the island and the irregularity is appealing. Combined with this is the colourful coverage of soft coral on some areas of the rock face. However the dive site is exposed to strong currents and swell which can make diving a challenge as well as causes poor visibility. As a result of the aforementioned natural forces the area is unsuitable as a snorkelling destination although it is sometimes used for such purposes. The high levels of soft coral and mainly tolerant encrusting (77.5%) and massive (17.9%) hard corals combined with the rocky irregular nature of the site means that the physical carrying capacity is high despite its accessibility and popularity.

Coral Garden is not heavily utilized as a snorkelling area as compared to the Marine Park Centre House Reel' and the Langkawi Coral Pontoon House Reef. It thus doesn't see as high numbers of visitors. Nevertheless, it is still the most heavily visited and popular dive site in Pulau Payar Marine Park. Despite this, social carrying capacity is fairly high since diving groups can remain separated by the irregular rocky outcrops and hidden by the poor visibility.

(d) Pulau Kaca

Pulau Kaca is another popular diving destination and all the dive operators interviewed brought their divers there. It is also very accessible from the Marine Park Centre. A dive at this site often involves the reef surrounding the island and the nearby wrecks that have been sunk by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia over the last few years.

There is a large component of live hard coral (61.0%) on the reef around Pulau Kaca of which 67.2% is branching coral, along with a limited cover of massive, encrusting, foliose and table coral. Dead hard coral cover is relatively low at 15.7% and is comparable to that at the control site (19.3%). The reef is healthy, varied and attractive, often supporting large schools offish, black tip reef sharks and occasionally whale sharks are encountered at this dive site. Alongside Coral Garden, Pulau Kaca is the most intensively used reef in the area and the presence of high levels of branching coral means that the physical carrying capacity is fairly low despite the reef being relatively undamaged as yet.

Social carrying capacity is fairly high at this site due to its irregular reef morphology, the circular tour of the reef taken by dive operators and the opportunity to swim away from the island to the wrecks. The visibility at Pulau Kaca tends to be fairly poor, between 5-10 m, (a common problem in the Pulau Payar group of islands) and this helps to increase the social carrying capacity by reducing visual contact, but may decrease diver satisfaction at the same time. When compared to levels of diving at other Marine Parks in Malaysia e.g. Pulau Tioman or Pulau Redang, diving at Pulau Payar Marine Park is a relatively small scale operation and does not seem to pose too great a threat to either the physical or social carrying capacities of even the most fragile of reefs in the group, such as Pulau Kaca.

(e) Lembu Rocks

Pulau Lembu is the most northerly island in the Payar group. There are only a few small isolated patch reefs around the island itself. Most of the diving activity takes place just north of the island, at Lembu Rocks. It is however not as intensively used as a dive site; only three of the dive operators interviewed brought divers here.

Lembu Rocks consists of a pile of boulders which has a considerable cover of anemones, sponges and other sedentary marine life (67.7%). There is a wide variety of different species of fish, many of which occur in large schools. There is relatively little live hard coral (18.2%) at Lembu Rocks, therefore the site is more physically tolerant towards reef activities and has a high physical carrying capacity. However, there is considerable algae presence on the substrate highlighting the possibility that the coral here may not be in optimum health.

Since Lembu Rocks is not an intensively used dive site, the problems of crowding do not occur here, hence it has a high social carrying capacity. In addition, the boulders that make up the site create an interesting underwater landscape and effectively increase the social carrying capacity by shielding dive groups from each other.

(f) Pulau Segantang

Pulau Segantang is located about 13 km to the southwest of Pulau Payar and is often used by dive operators en route to Pulau Payar from Pulau Langkawi, providing an interesting alternative to typical reef diving. The island is made up of two rocky outcrops joined together underwater but separated at the surface by a channel approximately 10 metres wide. Both the rocks have steep sides which continue underwater to a depth of up to 10 metres before sloping gently down to a depth of 20 metres. The opportunity for wall diving at Pulau Segantang is a significant attraction as is the plentiful fish life, in particular large shoals of commercial and reef fish, for example, barracuda, angel fish and butterflyfish. Pulau Segantang is also an important nursery and breeding ground for several species offish (De Silva & Ridzwan, 1982), and sightings of whale sharks are not uncommon around the island.

The rocky substrate of the site has a high cover of marine invertebrates such as sponges and anemones (79.9%) and a low live hard coral component (8.1 %). The hard coral cover consists largely of encrusting and massive corals (42% respectively). Unfortunately strong currents are common at Pulau Segantang and the island is isolated and not as accessible from the Pulau Payar Marine Park Centre as the other reefs. Coupled with the physically tolerant benthic lifeform composition, it can be concluded that the physical carrying capacity of Pulau Segantang is likely to be high.

Despite being a fairly popular dive site, with 66.67% of dive operators bringing divers there, its inaccessibility tends to counter this, resulting in a relatively low level of reef utilization. This factor, coupled with the general morphology and typically poor visibility mean that the reef's social carrying capacity is high.






Marine Park Centre House Reef




Langkawi Coral Pontoon House Reef




Coral Garden




Pulau Kaca




Lembu Rocks




Pulau Segantang




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