KOTA KINABALU: A picture of a Chinese tourist posing with a protected sea turtle he caught in Semporna waters is creating a stir in social media as Sabah authorities step up investigations into the case.
Sabah Wildlife Department and Sabah Parks investigators have turned up at the Singamata Adventures and Reef Resort to question the management over the incident, after one of the resort’s boats was spotted in the picture.
They are now trying to ascertain how the tourist could have been allowed to catch a protected turtle and other sea creatures in waters close to the diving haven of Pulau Sipadan. The tourist is believed to be part of a group of eight tourists who visited Semporna on March 27 and 28.
According to investigating sources, the picture has been making its rounds on Chinese networking site Weibo over the last few months after the tourist uploaded the picture, but only surfaced in Facebook on July 5.
The sources said the investigation was becoming difficult as the tourist had returned to China while the boatman who took the group on the snorkelling trip left the company on May 10.
"Since it was a snorkelling trip, there was no dive master accompanying them except for the boatman,’’ the sources explained, adding that the company management itself was surprised by the incident.
However, the investigation would continue as they try to locate the boatman and also trace the tourist through travel agents.
When contacted, Singamata Adventures and Reef Resort manager Vicky Shim apologised for the action of the tourist and the failure of their boatman to stop such acts.
"We strictly adhere to the conservation of marine resources and have put up reminders and advisories to inform tourists not to catch marine creatures. We sincerely apologise for what has happened,’’ she said.
Sea and marine conservationist Captain Paul Watson, who highlighted the issue, said he had written to the company asking it to issue a policy statement to instructors and boat operators to refrain from allowing customers to harass and abuse marine wildlife.
Watson, who is a member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said illegally handling marine wildlife for the amusement of guests was "irresponsible and extremely unprofessional’’ of Singamata, which is authorised as a dive resort by the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (Padi).
He said he would bring up the matter with Padi and also Project Aware that carried out marine conservation activities worldwide, including in Semporna.
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