Malaysia is endowed with many islands, coastal areas and seas whose marine environment is generally rich in aquatic resources. The quality of marine waters plays an important role in the conservation of these resources. The Department of Environment (DOE) started its monitoring programme in 1978 for Peninsular Malaysia. In 1985, the monitoring programme extended to Sabah and Sarawak, followed by the Island Marine Water Quality Monitoring Programme in 1998. Development on coastal areas and islands has created significant impacts on these sensitive environments. Thus, to ensure that the marine environment is well managed and protected, a database is established to accurately monitor and access the marine environmental quality.
Presently, a total of 233 monitoring stations for coastal areas and estuaries are set up through out all the states of Malaysia and 73 islands with 86 stations for island monitoring programme. These islands are classified into four categories: development islands, resort islands, marine park islands and protected islands.
The monitoring programme involves in-situ measurements of water quality parameters such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, salinity, turbidity and tar balls, and laboratory analyses of parameters such as Escherichia coli, oil and grease, total suspended solids, arsenic, cadmium, total chromium, copper, lead and mercury. The frequency of sampling carried out is between four to six times per year. This monitoring activity provides important information not only on the status of marine water quality but also to assist in the management of the recreational waters and marine ecosystem.