KOTA KINABALU: The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia says the damage to the coral reefs of Sipadan is a “terrible occurrence”, but the real concern is the ongoing destruction of the reefs in the entire Semporna area.
“The Semporna area is home to Malaysia’s largest concentration of coral reefs. Sipadan is one small reef, albeit a special one,” said WWF Malaysia marine coordinator Ken Kassem said on Friday. “Other reefs are much larger and harbour globally important biodiversity.”
According to WWF, dynamite and cyanide fishing are common, while pollution, coastal development and sedimentation from land-based sources threaten the complex ecosystem. Coral reefs, described as about the size of at least two tennis courts, were scraped bare by a barge carrying tonnes of construction material to the island recently. The WWF says that with time the reef will heal with little human intervention.
After the incident, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said that a RM5 million tourist facility was being built on the island, but Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman denied knowledge of the project.
He has ordered a full probe by Sabah Parks. “We hope that this incident highlights the fragile nature of these ecosystems and the need for better management throughout,” said Kassem. “Current resources are not enough for the agencies in charge to handle these complex problems alone. More support from the private sector and local communities is needed.”
Source: The New Straits Times Online, 21 May 2006