Daily Express
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Esscom should save reefs, too

Published on: Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kota Kinabalu: A call has been made to expand the scope of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) to include reef checks and marine enforcement, in addition to monitoring the coastline for better security.

Since the Navy, Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency and Marine Police are also a part of Esscom, Sabah Parks is willing to provide the necessary training on reef checks, report and taking necessary action.

Being located within the areas of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI), Sabah Parks Research Chief Affendi Johari Ariff, said Esscom has all the equipment and manpower to enforce and protect the marine life and corals in Sabah's East Coast areas.

"Apart from border and security enforcement, Esscom can also do enforcement and protect the marine life and corals, including curbing the use of illegal fishing methods like bombs and cyanide," he said, at the CTI Initiative, here.

Fish bombing and the use of chemicals like cyanide are rampant in the East Coast areas like Semporna, Sandakan and Pitas, where enforcement has always been hampered due to lack of manpower.

While the use of cyanide had always been limited to foreign fishermen, Affendi also recalled instances of several Vietnamese fishermen having laid down "30-km" longline fishing or "wall of death".

Such method has been deemed controversial because of the bycatch of immature fish and causing destruction to local coral reefs in the process.

"Some of these areas which have been identified for reef restoration, now have come to a stage of beyond saving," he warned.

He also called on the Government to review existing laws to meet current challenges, introducing the trade of corals as ornamentals into a licensed business and halt coral mining, believed being driven by the construction sector.