KUCHING: Sarawak is stepping up its marine conservation efforts with the deployment of artificial reef balls along the Muara Tebas-Sebuyau coastal waters.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said this was part of a reef ball project under Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) which was initiated in 2018.
"The state government has allocated RM70mil to deploy artificial reef balls in our coastal waters.
"To date, SFC has deployed 600 reef balls in the Belawai-Paloh waters, 600 in Lawas, 1,200 from Igan to Mukah. Now we are deploying another 1,200 from Muara Tebas to Sebuyau and the next one will be in Daro," he said when launching the deployment on Monday (June 29).
Abang Johari said the artificial reef balls, when fully deployed along the state's 1,000km-long coastal waters from Tanjung Datu to Lawas, would be one of the longest in the world.
This was a reflection of the state's "aggressive environmental protection" of its coastal waters, he said.
"What we are doing is to preserve and protect our coastal areas, the environment and also the ecosystem so that the wildlife will be there."
In addition, Abang Johari said the reef balls would also improve the local fishermen's livelihood by enhancing marine resources and protecting their fishing grounds from illegal trawling activities.
"Based on data we have received after the reef balls were deployed, the fish caught has increased and the fishermen have been able to earn a higher income," he said.
Meanwhile, SFC said it would take about a week to deploy the reef balls along the Muara Tebas-Sebuyau waters.
It said the reef ball project aimed to deploy a total of 17,200 reef balls along the state's coastline to protect and conserve marine ecosystems as well as to create new eco-tourism sites for diving and sport-fishing.
In particular, the project promotes the conservation of endangered marine species, especially sea turtles, by protecting their habitats and migratory routes between feeding grounds and nesting beaches.