Dive marshals to police Sipadan

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Parks will appoint four dive marshals in Sipadan following outrage over a tourist from China being photographed holding animals, including a turtle, in Semporna waters.

Sabah Parks director Jamili Nais said the move was necessary to ensure dive operators and tourists did not harass marine life.

He said they were also in discussions with Reef Check Malaysia on certification for ethical diving, for example the “Green Fin” certification programme.

“We shall continue with our other ethical diving awareness and education programmes,” he said, adding that he was surprised and disappointed by the incident because the operator was well-known and reputable.

“In general, the dive industry is self-regulatory and most dive operators are ethical,” he said.

A photograph of the Chinese tourist holding a sea turtle among other marine life caught in Semporna waters surfaced on social media three days ago, creating a stir among conservationists who wanted action taken against Singamata Adventure and Reef Resort, whose boat was seen in the photographs.

Jamili said preliminary investigations could not determine where the tourists went snorkelling in March because the boatman left the company in May.

However, he said he was confident that the incident did not occur in Sipadan or any of the islands under Sabah Parks.

He added that the Wildlife Department and the Tourism and Culture Ministry had been asked to help in the probe.

Meanwhile, resort manager Vicky Shim issued an apology and explained that they were unaware of the incident until the photographs appeared on Facebook last Friday.

The guest was among eight tourists who came to the resort on March 27 and 28 and had hired the boatman to go snorkelling. No dive master accompanied them because they did not go diving.