KOTA KINABALU: Popular diving spots in Sabah are a big draw but the tourism industry is a little worried as the state prepares to re-open its borders to international visitors from Sept 1.
Divers in Semporna district, which is home to many a diving haven, are worried about the cost of perennial fishbombing activities to the tourism industry.
The Semporna Professional Divers Association (SPDA) believes these nefarious activities had been going on during the movement control order period as they have sighted debris from coral reefs freshly-destroyed by explosives during their recent diving excursions.
Its president Abdul Razak Ismail said his members had also heard explosions during their dives at the islands of Mantabuan and Timba-Timba last week.
“There are many other sites where this takes place but the usual spots where these fishbombings occur are off the Kulapuan and Sibuun islands,” he told Borneo Today.
“Normally, these kind of fishermen tend to carry out the bombings far away from people where there are less or no diving activities.
“But although far, we can hear the explosion very clearly as the sound travels four times faster than above the surface and we will certainly feel the vibration underwater, even though it’s one kilometre away.”
Last month, divers were greeted by the sound of underwater blasts and dead turtles, due to ghost nets, as they went for a spot of diving at Mantanani Island, off Kota Belud, just after the reopening of domestic tourism in the state.
A Universiti Malaysia Sabah student recounted the terrifying experience of explosions and vibrations as they went for their first dive at the popular west coast diving spot.
Unlike Mantanani, Abdul said there are no ghost nets in Semporna but fishbombings have certainly been a threat in the district for a long time.
“The blasts occur on a daily basis. We believe those who carry out these bombings are a mix of locals and foreigners due to the island being close to the border.
“Divers can be taken off guard by the blast sound and cause them to panic. If this happens, they could swim rapidly to the surface and this could result in a lung over expansion, which could cause the lung to burst,” he said.
He added the fishermen used sinkable explosives now, as opposed to bombs that detonated above water previously.
Towards this end, Abdul acknowledged the authorities have done their bid to curb fishbombing incidents but said more needs to be done.
“We thought with the MCO, the reefs would recover due to no blasting but it seems like we were wrong.
“We hope something more concrete can be done because this is not good for our tourism industry,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sabah Anglers’ Association president Datuk Wilfred Lingham, who has often spoken out against fishbombing, proposed several measures for the government to take to get to the root of the problem.
“Firstly, they need to effectively trace where the detonators are coming from, they certainly do not come from within the country but from a neighbouring nation.
“Secondly, we know fertilisers are a key ingredient in making the bombs so the government needs to control the sale of such material instead of allowing them to be sold to any Tom, Dick and Harry.
“The last one is for the fertiliser manufacturers to make the material inert so it becomes useless for those making such explosives,” he said.