Kota Kinabalu: A survey assessing the damage on corals in Sipadan by a barge carrying construction materials revealed that the area affected was 372 square metres (3,984 square feet).
This was made available by the Director of Sabah Parks to the WWF-Malaysia's Vice President Emeritus Tengku Datuk Seri Zainal Adlin, who is also the Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board.
"The incident is most unfortunate and should not have happened. Although the damage is minimal, appropriate actions should be taken by relevant authorities against the contractor for unauthorised usage and encroachment of the barge into Sipadan," said Tengku Adlin.
He also expressed full support on the State Cabinet's decision to suspend all construction works on the island, which includes reviewing the scope and specifications of the basic facilities project.
Based on a WWF-Malaysia report published in 1993, the Sipadan reef area covers 208 hectares of the island. However, survey revealed that damages done on the reefs were less than one per cent.
Adlin said Sipadan reefs are healthy and that relatively healthy reefs can, by nature, recover rapidly when stressed or damaged.
A management plan based on sound science must be in place as soon as possible to overlook various activities on the island and its reefs.
Furthermore, an annual 'state of the reef' report to monitor corals and numbers of visitors in a year could aid the reef's assessment, highlighting management efforts and provide interested stakeholders with relevant information.
He said that managing the security aspects and biodiversity of Sipadan island are two completely different matters.
The island's security and biodiversity must be clearly delineated, said Tengku Adlin, adding that Sabah Parks needs a full mandate and proper management plan for the latter with full assistance by the Government, private sector and local community stakeholders.
WWF-Malaysia hoped that the management plan will be developed through participation and input from dive operators, divers and local communities as well as non-governmental organisations.
A transparent, participatory process will build more capacity amongst all stakeholders to help Sabah Parks manage Sipadan.
"Sipadan is a national treasure that is also highly valued by people all over the world. The minimal impact of the barge incident will probably not affect the exquisite diving on Sipadan," says WWF-Malaysia's National Programme Director, Dr Dinoysius Sharma.
Source: Daily Express