PULAU Sembilan, the island famous for the unusual “blue tears” of seawater that appear at night due to bioluminescent phytoplankton, is officially closed to visitors.
State Tourism, Arts and Culture Committee Chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi said this is necessary as the state is concerned with conservation efforts to maintain the pristine condition of the island.
“There has been no control in terms of the number of people allowed to visit the island daily.
“We do have a ruling that only allows a maximum of 120 people a day on the island, but there has been times where about 300 to 400 people were on the island almost every day.
“This has damaged the pristine condition of the sand and it does not look white anymore,” she told a press conference at the Amanjaya Terminal last Sunday.
Nolee Ashilin said, as a result the state will have to tighten rules by closing the island for an indefinite period.
“We have to reinspect and reevaluate how we can conduct tourism better on the island.
“We do not know when the island will be open to tourists again, but we are trying to do it as soon as possible because we understand that the island has grown to be a popular tourist attraction.
“But at the same time, we cannot compromise conservation efforts. We have to make sure that the island is sustainable for many years to come,” she said.
Currently, Nolee Ashilin said the state has working with non-governmental organisations that have expertise in marine biology, and a management plan has already been drawn up.
Asked if the boats to the island have a detrimental effect on the plankton, she said no, as the main problem lies with the increasing number of people visiting the island daily.
“The island is not big, we have to care for the plankton that is in the sea.
“If there is too much disruption due to the uncontrolled number of tourists visiting the island, the planktons will not be there for long anymore.
“We have also given ample time to tour operators to phase out bookings for any Pulau Sembilan trips. There is strictly no more bookings allowed,” she said.
Nolee Ashilin also warned that the state is prepared to apprehend those who visit the island illegally to enforce the ruling.
She was speaking to reporters after launching the Perak Transit buses carrying new Visit Perak Year 2017 banners to increase awareness of the event among tourists and locals.
Nolee Ashilin said the banners have been placed on 10 buses servicing routes from Ipoh to Bercham area, Penang, Cameron Highlands, Kampar, Manjung, Kuala Kangsar and Bercham.
“Apart from letting tourists know, the banners also serve as a reminder that 2017 will be the year we sstrice to ensure the success of the state’s tourism sector,” she said, addind that buses servicing routes within the city also feature the banners.
Nolee Ashilin said routes worked out to allow the buses to stop at tourist spots in Ipoh had been worked out since last year.
“This is specifically for the MyBas initiative, so that our buses can better serve the locals and tourists together,” she said.