KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is expected to suspend the harvest and export of coral following public outcry of coral being taken from waters off Semporna.
State Agriculture and Food Industries Minister Datuk Junz Wong said that four licences for coral harvesting and export issued by the previous Barisan Nasional state government would be suspended.
"My ministry will suspend the extraction and export of corals pending the approval of the state cabinet," he said on Thursday (Oct 10).
"Yes, it's legal to do so under the previous government and we will rectify this. We will do it soon, we won't delay," he said.
The issue of coral harvesting in Semporna was highlighted in social media earlier this week.
Four companies are licensed to harvest and export wild coral, which are commonly placed in aquariums.
When the issue surfaced last week, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew on Tuesday (Oct 8) said that the coral harvesting activities were not within the Sipadan Island Park and Tun Sakaran Marine Park area that comprise of at least five islands and reefs covering about 350 sq km.
Pictures of an unidentified people transferring coral from a boat to a vehicle and were widely circulated on Facebook with the message " No to Coral Export".
Facebook user Laili Basir this supposedly happened at the Semporna jetty on Oct 3 and authorities had been told about it.
Liew said that the two agencies – Sabah Parks and Sabah Wildlife Department under her ministry were ordered to work with the Fisheries Department to check on the harvesting of corals.
She said that such activities would damage the marine habitat in Semporna, affect fishermen and the tourism industry in the area and also soil Sabah's image internationally.