Sipadan Island coral reef damaged by 900m tangled fishing net, boat driver detained for questioning

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Divers work to cut the fishing net caught on the reefs of Sipadan Island ― Photo courtesy of Sabah Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism

By Julia Chan

Saturday, September 24, 2022 3:50 p.m. GMT

KOTA KINABALU, Sept. 24 – Authorities yesterday had to remove a 900-meter fishing net found near a famous dive site on Sipadan Island, damaging some of its coral reefs.

The net, which had drifted away from a fishing boat, was caught at the famous Barracuda Point dive site and stretched towards Hanging Gardens, with some 18 fish caught, including two sharks.

Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Jafry Arifin said the net was spotted around 6am yesterday by a Sabah Parks ranger and the diving marshal on duty when they saw the floating net buoys that had drifted.

“After calling and reporting the matter, work began to remove the net with the help of several dive operators – Seahorse Scuba, Borneo Jungle and Dive Semporna.

“The mission took all day to clear the net from Barracuda Point to North Point, but at night there was about 200m left. Efforts continued this morning, involving some 25 divers from multiple operators until the net was completely removed,” he said.

A wooden fishing boat had also approached the marine park at around 9.40am yesterday morning, without an entry permit, and claimed responsibility for the net which had drifted with the currents into the park. The owner of the boat was arrested for questioning.

Jafry said he was upset the incident took place and described it as irresponsible while strictly calling for action to be taken against those involved.

“They must bear the consequences of their recklessness, serve as an example for others to be more careful in the future,” he said.

Sipadan Island is Malaysia’s only ocean island that emerges from the seabed. It is famous among diving enthusiasts for its huge school of barracudas, turtles, sharks and its abundant coral life.

Only 176 permits are issued to divers per day to limit the number of people visiting the park in order to preserve its environment.

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