Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Sipadan dive operators’ painful sacrifice pays off

SEMPORNA: “Moving out from Sipadan Island was a painful sacrifice. We not only lost millions of Ringgit but lost many of our customers as well,” said Borneo Divers managing director Clement Lee.

This was his spontaneous response when asked on his feeling after Clement and other dive resort operators were asked to vacate Sipadan Island in 2004, after occupying the island for about 10 years.

The directive from the state government came about after the marine environment and underwater habitat of the 12-hectare Sipadan Island National Park was adversely affected by human activities.

Construction of physical infrastructure such as resorts and other facilities to meet the increasing demand from divers all over the world at the end endangered the fragile marine ecosystem around the park.

The most apparent decline was the number of marine species, which were abundant around the island when the place was first explored by Borneo Divers in 1993.

However, Clement who pioneered the diving industry in Sipadan Island in 1994 and other dive operators have no regret over their decision to cooperate with the authorities for the sake of preserving Sipadan Island for the future generation.

“So we left, thinking that we were doing the right thing and investing in our future,” said Clement adding had they continued their stay on Sipadan the destruction there could have been worse. After vacating the island, they continued with diving activities there but kept strict to the regulations introduced by the government including limiting the number of divers to the park to 120 compared with the unlimited numbers previously.

After moving out, Clement opened a dive resort on 2.6 hectares of land in Mabul Island, located about 15 minutes away from Sipadan by speed boat.

Clement and other dive operators’ sacrifice had significantly changed Sipadan as researches found that the marine life there has regenerated fast and the underwater environment had improved tremendously.

“Absolutely after seven years, now the marine life there has improved. What I had personally seen before, I see it now. I can compare the past and present. I have seen the good sign for sure,” said Clement based on his and his diving friends’ observation on Sipadan now.

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