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By Karen Bong
KUCHING, April 7: Sperm whales and common minke whales have been sighted by international marine conservationists in the Luconia Shoals National Park which lies around 100 kilometres off the Sarawak coast.
Revealing this, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg thus emphasised that the setting up of the Sarawak Coastguard, which now has 65 members, is crucial and timely to protect the uniqueness of and resources in Sarawak waters, including its oil and gas.
More importantly, he pointed out, Sarawak has 1.244 million hectares of marine parks that must be guarded.
“The Sarawak Coastguard will thus operate in these marine parks which have been gazetted.
“Enforcement will be carried out in accordance with the provisions under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998 and National Parks and Nature Reserves Ordinance 1998,” he told a press conference after launching the first Sarawak Coastguard unit at Kuching Waterfront today.
The marine parks comprise Similajau National Park with a size of 13,124 hectares, Tanjung Datu National Park (627 hectares), Talang Satang National Park (19,414 hectares), Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park (186,930 hectares), Santubong National Park (2,165 hectares), Limbang Mangrove National Park (1,623 hectares), Bruit National Park (8,071 hectares) and Luconia Shoals National Park (1.002 million hectares).
“This is the reason for the Sarawak government to set up the coastguard unit as Sarawak has huge marine parks and a long coastline,” he said.
Elaborating on the Sarawak Coastguard, Abang Johari pointed out that the unit was established to safeguard Sarawak’s sovereignty especially in coastal areas in the region which are rightfully under Sarawak’s autonomy.
“We will set up five coast guard bases in Kuching, Tanjung Manis, Bintulu, Miri and Lawas under the 12th Malaysia Plan,” he added.
The Sarawak Coastguard, he continued, will complement and collaborate with other enforcement agencies especially Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) to guard State waters from the intrusion of foreign fishermen and vessels.
“There are foreign fishermen who intrude into our coastal areas and we will work with MMEA as the Sarawak Coastguard will serve as our own defence line like intercepting foreign vessels from encroaching as the coastal areas are under Sarawak’s autonomy.”
The unit is currently equipped with the latest detection equipment, the first of its kind in Malaysia, with underwater vision.
Abang Johari added the unit will also operate three 35-metre long vessels which have just passed the design stage and are in the process of being tendered. An additional six 25-metre long vessels will also be procured.
“As for training, the coastguards in Miri and Sibu will undergo a one-week basic training (programme) to be organised by Pelita Mas Laut Sdn Bhd and a one-week training (programme) to operate the Interceptor boat will be conducted by the marine police,” he said.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing, Minister for Local Government and Housing Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Speaker Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar, State Secretary Datuk Amar Jaul Samion and State Enforcement and Security Unit director Datu Dr Chai Khin Chung were among the distinguished guests present. — DayakDaily