Aquatic Cops Begin Patrolling Reefs
Sipadan island's stunning coral reefs draw divers from around the world. Photo Credit: SMC Zoology via Tumblr
Ladies and gentlemen, here come – wait for the drum roll – the Undersea Cops. No, the marine marshals aren’t the members of some mysterious team of comic book superheroes. Rather, they belong to an underwater task force of divers whose job is now to police coral reefs at the diving paradise of Pulau Sipadan in Sabah.
The four divers, who work for Sabah Parks, will be tasked with ensuring that tourists and local dive operators do not damage the oceanic island’s spectacular reefs. “They will be like undersea policemen who will act against divers trampling or destroying corals,” explained Ginun Yangus, the state’s permanent secretary for Tourism, Culture and Environment.”It is a major step forward,” he added. “In due time there will be more dive marshals.”
Local authorities have just designated another 6,846 hectares as part of a protected marine park in the oceanic island’s environs in an effort to preserve their stunning underwater ecosystems, which have made the island one of the world’s most popular destinations for scuba divers. This means that a total of 16,846 hectares of coral reefs and sea waters have now been gazetted as protected areas around Sipadan.
“By gazetting the area as a protected park, enforcement and monitoring can be done more effectively, which help in preserving the coral reefs,” Ginun said at a dedication ceremony. “It also provides a new source of revenue for Sabah Parks.”
The waters surrounding the island boast 12 diving points with the most popular among them being Barracuda Point, Drop-off Point and South Point. Currently up to 120 divers are given permits every day to visit the various sites for a fee of RM40. The four newly appointed Dive Marshals have started monitoring scuba diving operations around the Island to make sure that participants comply with regulations and leave the corals intact. “We also check on boats to ensure that no fishing equipment is brought into the area,” one of the marshals, Arthur Severinus, explained.
More power to them!