KOTA KINABALU • The town of Semporna on the east side of the Malaysian state of Sabah is known for being the gateway to some of the world's best diving sites, including Mabul Island.
However, conservationists warn that fish-bombing is threatening the marine ecosystem there.
"At least 86 per cent of the corals in the district are on the verge of destruction due to fish-bombing activities," according to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia's Semporna Priority Conservation Area team leader Choo Poh Leem.
"Such actions are also leading to the extinction of marine life," she said during an awareness programme with parents, teachers and students in Semporna last Friday.
The practice of killing turtles for meat, taking turtle eggs and harvesting them for food or selling them was also a huge problem in Semporna, said Ms Choo.
She said turtle-viewing and the release of hatchlings were a key part of tourism in Semporna. But if the community kept killing the turtles or taking their eggs, there would be no more turtles left to see, she said.
A person found with one turtle egg can be fined up to RM250,000 (S$82,000). Last October, two Filipinos were sentenced to three years' jail and fined RM100,000 each by the Tawau Sessions Court for hunting and killing critically endangered green turtles in Semporna waters.
Meanwhile, Ms Choo stressed that enforcement agencies must be more proactive and play a bigger role in making sure that such activities are stopped. "Enforcement of laws is vital to helping curb fish bombing," she said.
Towards this end, Ms Choo said WWF's Semporna Priority Conservation Area team would be working with enforcement agencies to hold a workshop on the issue on Feb 26 at the Semporna Fisheries Department office.
Deputy Chief Minister Jaujan Sambakong, who officiated the event, reminded the community to be responsible and help protect the environment.
"Our nature is our treasure. Without them we will not be able to introduce Sabah to the world," he said.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK