Monday, March 07, 2016

Malaysia's first 'underwater cops' to protect coral reefs in Sabah

SEMPORNA: Four dive marshals of the world-renowned diving haven of Pulau Sipadan have become Malaysia's first underwater enforcers.

The four, who are from Sabah Parks, have been tasked to ensure divers do not destroy or damage the rich coral at mushroom- shaped Sipadan, the country's only oceanic island.

Tourism, Culture and Environment permanent secretary Ginun Yangus said the presence of the dive marshals would enhance the protection of the natural undersea environment.

"They will be like undersea policemen who will act against divers trampling or destroying coral.

It is a major step forward. In due time there will be more dive marshals," he said at a function to mark the official gazetting of Sipadan waters as a Sabah Parks conservation area on Saturday.

"Dive masters from various tour operators should also assist in ensuring tourists do not disturb or destroy coral," added Datuk Ginun.

He said the general health of the coral in and around Sipadan was good, although certain areas preferred by divers might be slightly stressed.

"We have 12 diving points around Sipadan, but most people prefer going to Barracuda Point, Drop Off Point and South Point," he said, urging visitors to look at other sites in the diving haven instead.