Bomb detection devices help conservationists curb fish bombing in Semporna

KOTA KINABALU: Fish bombing activities in one of Sabah’s diving havens of Semporna have reduced significantly over the past three years, thanks to real-time bomb-detecting devices.

Marine conservationist Terence Lim from the Stop Fish Bombing Malaysia non-governmental organisation said this device was put to use in Semporna in 2020, and it has since reduced the number of cases by about 80%.

He said when the device detects an explosion underwater, it would send an alert to the NGO database and they would immediately share the information including the Global Positioning System (GPS) location to the authorities.

He said enforcement officials including the marine and from the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) respond almost immediately and hence this has helped in arresting suspects and reducing the number of cases.

Lim said the cooperation between the NGO and enforcement agencies as well as local communities help make this a successful effort.

Due to security reasons, he said they could not reveal the location where these devices were installed but each device could detect a blast within a 200m to 300m radius.

"If the fish bombers know where all our devices are, they would destroy them. Each unit cost tens of thousands of ringgit, and we already have a few damaged by these people," he said.

Lim said prior to the use of this device which was funded mainly by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), authorities would get information about any fish bombing incident at least one or two hours after it happened.

"This is because when someone, usually divers or boat operators hear of suspected fish bombing activities, they would need time to pinpoint the location and alert the authorities," he said.

He said when at sea, phone signals were often unstable and that also contributed to the delay for an alert to be sent out.

After authorities receive the information, they would have to find out exactly where the incident happened and by the time they get a vague idea, the suspect would have left the scene, said Lim.

He said now, their new challenge was to expand the programme as fish bombing activities had moved outside Semporna.

He said efforts are ongoing to seek more funding to help expand the programme and cover more waters in Sabah.

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