Sarawak enhancing environmental protection with RM70m for artificial reef balls

Abang Johari (second right) and Len Talif (right) present a mock RM5,000 cheque to Ismail Ahmad (second left), who was presented with the Sarawak Chief Minister’s Award 2018 for Outstanding Honorary Wild Life Ranger for his work in marine wildlife conservation.

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, Dec 12: Sarawak has allocated RM70 million to produce artificial reef balls that will be deployed across Sarawak’s shoreline.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the reef balls project would be crucial to conserve marine life and the environment as well as to deter illegal trawling and discourage encroachment by foreign fishing boats.

“We need to protect our shoreline, and the reef balls are perfect for our marine conservation efforts. It will be effective in curbing illegal trawling in Sarawak waters and stop intrusions.

“With the allocation of RM70 million to produce artificial reef balls, we will deploy it across the state’s shoreline from Tanjung Datu all the way to Lawas. In the end, this will benefit the local fishing community,” he said at Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC)’s 15th anniversary dinner here on Tuesday.

Abang Johari added that the RM70 million investment would yield positive returns in the long run as the state protects its shoreline and marine resources.

On a related note, the state’s government decision to gazette Luconia Shoals as a marine national park was to protect its marine resources and environment.

“This is quite sensitive to some people, but to me, it is our land. Therefore, we must declare this as our land, to gazette what belongs to Sarawak and established as a marine national park,” he said.

Luconia Shoals Marine National Park, located in the South China Sea and over the Sunda Continental Shelf in the Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) within Sarawak territorial waters, is the biggest marine national park in Malaysia.

At the announcement of the marine park in September this year, Abang Johari said it was suggested that there were extensive oil and gas resources under the seabed in the area.

A number of Petronas’s oil and gas platforms are located less than 25km from the boundary of the marine park.

Meanwhile, Assistant Minister for Urban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh said SFC had deployed 600 artificial reef balls in the Belawai-Paloh water and an additional 600 at Batu Blais and Seafan D coral reefs in Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park.

SFC had also improved facilities at the turtle and marine conservation site at Talang Satang National Park, which is one of the main nesting sites and breeding areas for migrating turtles along the coast of Sarawak and Sabah waters.

“With the conservation of endangered marine species such as sea turtles, dugong, dolphins and porpoises, the corals and others are in good hands. It promises to provide great and excellent spots for tourism activities such as scuba-diving and other underwater activities in the long run,” he continued.

At the dinner, SFC also launched its Hornbill Adoption Programme, which has attracted participantion from major companies in Sarawak and several individual adopters. — DayakDaily