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Saturday May 12, 2007

Sarawak gazettes marine park 

MIRI: A large area of seabed in the South China Sea off the shores of northern Sarawak equivalent to 470,000 football fields has been turned into an underwater national park.  

The decision to gazette the 186,930ha area that covers the Miri and Sibuti districts as “totally-protected” was made by the Sarawak Cabinet recently following a directive from Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud. 

The marine national park, officially called the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park, is located in the maritime boundary between Bintulu town and Miri City and is the largest offshore national park created in this state. 

Assistant State Minister for Infrastructure Development and Communications Lee Kim Shin, who is also Sarawak Tourism Board director for northern Sarawak, said the area was being made a national park because it has some of the most beautiful coral reefs found in the region. 

“This important move will help to preserve the enormous beauty of the seas off northern Sarawak. The coasts here have many fascinating and unspoiled coral reef gardens. 

“They would make excellent attractions for divers and marine enthusiasts and eco-tourism lovers. Every effort will be made to ensure that the coral reefs are preserved in the original state,” he said. 

According to the notice of declaration issued by the Chief Minister’s office, the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park will run along the maritime boundaries of Sibuti and Miri districts. 

All forms of commercial activities that can impact the natural state of the ecosystem or living creatures in the area are banned. 

Petroleum and gas mining, archaeological excavations, fishing and waste dumping are among the activities that are prohibited in the area. Those that do not threaten the undersea environment, like diving, boating and snorkelling, will be allowed.