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'Rampant fish bombing near Sipadan' claim
Published on: Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kota Kinabalu: A freelance boat operator and former civil servant said it "breaks his heart" to hear fish bombs set off at night near Sipadan Island. The operator, who requested anonymity, claimed that such illegal fish bombing activities were "rampant" during the last fasting month and since.

This independent first-hand field experience adds credence to a Thursday report in The Star which quoted an unnamed diver as claiming hundreds of Triggerfish and Surgeonfish and a Hawksbill Turtle found dead in a scene of sizeable destruction at a popular dive site named Eel garden of Stingray City, quite a distance northeast of Mabul Island, which can be considered too close for comfort to the world famous diving paradise, Sipadan Island, since Mabul and Sipadan are separated by only a 15-minute boat ride.

The diver claimed the latest bombs set off had left a blast crater, many dead animals that still looked fresh, bottle parts and shards sprawled over a reef destroyed.

Although illegal fish bombing is considered rare in Semporna these days, the fact that they emerged now among top dive sites has raised alarm in the industry.

The choice of Eel Garden or Stingray City and at night to drop the bombs is interesting because it is the furthest among eight dive spots around Mabul Island, which therefore makes the culprits far and difficult to catch.

The other relatively closer seven Mabul Island dive sites are Paradise 1, Paradise 2, Old House Reef, Coral Reef Garden, Ray Point, Lobster Wall and Panglima Reef .

Randy Davies, a founder of Borneo Divers and a pioneer in discovering Sipadan Island in the 70s, said he doubted fish bombing happened inside Sipadan area, firstly because the geography of water which goes down thousands of feet deep and plunging walls, is not good for bombed fish which sink to a virtually bottomless sea and secondly, it is well protected by a Field Force out there and therefore hard for fish bombers to intrude.

"I therefore doubt it is happening in Sipadan but we don't know for sure until we get more facts on hand," Randy said.

Meanwhile, Sabah Environment Protection Association President, Wong Tack, reiterated his call to send undercover detectives to the identify the sources where fish bombs are made in order to root out the culprits at source.

"In West Malaysia, anyone found with illegal possession of even a bullet can face the death sentence, but in Sabah people are making and throwing bombs with hardly any consequence," he said.

"This is why they are now out to attack and deliver the last blow to the last bastion of Sabah's richest reefs right at the epicentre of Sabah's dive world famous tourism industry," he added.

"How long will Sabah sit and let these criminals destroy the image and brand of Sabah's globally famous dive industry?

"If the marine police, the fishery authorities and local authorities still treat this criminal act as just another passing incident without setting up an active programme to wipe out the menace, they are opening the window to these long surviving high-sea criminals to finish off Sabah's single most precious marine natural resource," Wong said.



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