Friday, October 01, 2010

Ironically, Sabah tourism threatens islands

Sabah’s islands are popular with tourists because of their pristine waters, according to Masidi Manjun, minister of tourism, culture and environment. More than half a million tourists make a beeline for the islands of Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi, Sulug and Gaya which make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.

They are attracted to the stunningly colourful corals, fish and other marine animals. But pollution from rising plastic trash, lavish feeding of fish with commercial fish food and tourists’ penchant for eating shark fins are killing corals and other marine life.

The problem is grave enough for Masidi to ban tourists from feeding coral fish with food pellets and discourage them from bringing plastic bottles of drinking water to the islands and eating shark fins cooked in soup, an Asian delicacy.

“We don’t know whether the fish feed is safe for the environment,” he says. “The fish can feed themselves.” But tour companies say tourists are thrilled by the experience of seeing the fish eating voraciously in the clear water as they feed them from their boats.

Three-quarters of Malaysia’s corals are found in Sabah. And they are dying from a process known as “coral bleaching” during which they lose colour and die. There are many reasons for this. But warming of sea because of increased chemical pollutants is one, according to marine biologists.

Twelve popular dive sites of the peninsular Malaysia, notably those of Tioman and Redang, have been closed from July until the end of this month to allow corals to recuperate. About 60% of them are found to be dying. The situation isn’t so bad in Sabah, according to Theresa Tham who heads a marine environmental awareness campaign.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Ironically, Sabah tourism threatens islands

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