KOTA KINABALU: Conservationists expressed shock when corals at a popular dive site in Mabul Island were allegedly damaged by a giant barge on Friday morning (June 25).
Pictures circulated online showed extensive damage to hard coral colonies at Paradise One dive site when a heavily loaded barge allegedly arrived in Mabul waters the night before (June 24), carrying building materials for an infrastructure project on the island.
The world-famous site at Sabah’s east coast is renowned for its night dives and is a training site for Reef Check Malaysia Eco-diver courses.
One resort manager there, who declined to be named, said he tried to intervene when it became apparent the boatmen were trying to land the barge on Mabul Island.
However, the contractor involved in the project did not heed his warnings when he warned that the size of the barge was larger than the water space available, which would cause the vessel to get stuck on the reef.
He expressed dismay since resorts and dive centres in Mabul Island have been giving care and attention for the reefs there through collaborative work, only for this to happen.
Local conservation group Green Semporna co-founder Adzmin Fatta said it was devastating news as they have been carrying out successful marine conservation outreach programmes with the local communities at the island for many years now.
“Many of our volunteers are horrified to know of the damage, we carried out so many beach clean-ups in that particular area to protect the corals there.”
Meanwhile, Reef Check Malaysia general manager Julian Hyde said it could take many years for reefs to re-generate properly, especially with additional stress like coral bleaching.
“I sincerely hope that this is not the case for this particular reef, and I urge care and caution for further work at that site,” he said.