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Asia Dive News : Underwater patrols in Malaysia target coral thieves

Underwater patrols will be conducted at the 42 marine parks nationwide from January to nab those who damage or collect corals.

Marine Parks department director Dr Sukarno Wagiman said 100 enforcement personnel would be conducting the patrols to nab these culprits.

He said the stricter enforcement was aimed at to prevent damage to corals.

He said those caught could be fined under the Fisheries Act but did not specify the amount.

Dr Sukarno also said the temporary closure of several dive sites at three marine parks since June due to coral bleaching has been extended.

He said this was because the corals at these sites have yet to fully recover.

He said some of the corals had only recovered by between one and two percent.

“When we first gave the time frame for the temporary closure until the end of this month, we thought that it would give ample time for the corals to recover.

“It seems the corals need a much longer period of time to recover,” Dr Sukarno said Sunday when met at a seminar on coral protection organised by Tourism Malaysia here.

He said the department had yet to decide when the dive sites would be reopened to the public.

It was reported in June that several dive sites at the Pulau Tioman marine park in Pahang, Pulau Redang marine park in Terengganu and Pulau Payar marine park in Kedah were temporarily off-limits to divers and snorkellers until the end of October.

The sites were affected by coral bleaching, a phenomenon caused by global warming that has increased sea water temperature by 2C to between 28C and 29C.

The affected dive sites are Pulau Chebeh and Batu Malang in Pahang; Teluk Dalam, Tanjung Tukas Darat, Tanjung Tukas Laut, Teluk Air Tawar, Pulau Tenggol and Teluk Bakau in Terengganu; and Teluk Wangi, Pantai Damai and Coral Garden in Kedah.

Pulau Regis, Pulau Soyak and Pulau Tumok in the Tioman marine park have also been temporarily closed.

Source: The Star