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Reef damage Sipadan stylee


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#21 xtremediver

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 05:13 PM

After reading your comments and the addresses of the appropriate Malaysian contacts, I bothered to send them emails last night. Of course, no reply yet, but if they do reply I will be certain to post a copy of it here. Anyone else I should try to contact that may have any influence on this situation? I sure hate to see this just go away and nothing happen positively from it. Perhaps a larger outcry from the diving community and the more recognized names in the industry might help to stop any further destruction. Certainly this is one time that the "almighty $" and the loss of tourism should have a positive influence on those in power? Do we as tourist (and the blessed few who get to see and appreciate the underwater world ) just sit back and accept this as fate? A boycott of the area might help, but it will certainly hurt the small businesses who might just be as upset as I am? Got to quit ranting and write some more letters. :lol:
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#22 funkyspelunker

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 10:01 PM

This is a really sad and unfortunate accident.

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#23 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 10:24 PM

I would like to comment is that the damage in itself is in a relatively small area. Say about 3 tennis courts , with spillage of building materials and broken coral down the reef.

From a diving perspective - most of the damage is on top of the reef - and I am sure that many people would swim passed on the wall (as divers tend to be on the wall rather than on the reef flat) and not know what is above them. In fact when i was photographing the damage on the wall I did not know what was above me. And of course all the other dive sites on Sipadan remain undamaged.

I believe it is worth making a fuss because I am upset that such a stupid accident was allowed to happen - on an island that should be protected from development. Hopefully by making a fuss we can stop something similar from happening again.

On a positive note - the fact that the corals were sheared off to a hard limestone base should aid recolonisation. I would expect there to be good coral cover in about 10 years - compared with say a 40 year recovery from bombing.

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#24 wagsy

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 10:51 PM

Hey Alex

Looks like they are onto it.....

KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said yesterday he has ordered Sabah Parks to immediately initiate an investigation into the presence of a barge at Sipadan Island.

Here is the LINK
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#25 DuikKees

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 10:51 PM

Luiz
Dynamite/blast fishing is whole other tread. That method was taught to the locals by the europeans in the 16-17th century empire expansion. The dutch and portuguese were especially fond of doing it.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hereby a sincere SORRY from the Dutch :lol:

#26 gciavarella

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 10:52 PM

:lol:
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#27 Drew

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 12:09 AM

Duikkees
I didn't mean to knock the dutch or portuguese of today... just mentioning a bit of history. I think every country and culture has done plenty somethings in their history,they wouldn't put on their resume of good deeds. In fact, I thank the dutch for their hot chicks! :lol:

Shark Butt,
Yes I just read it this morning. Amazing what strong emails to his boss over the course of 2 days can do to make a government official. This keeps them on their toes. We are their big brother for once.
As I mentioned, the spin is on. There are existing structures from past resorts which could be modified for the facilities they wanted to build. Now if they close off the island (which could be an excuse to do so to shut out foreign criticism) then we all lose. They should implement strict dive schedules and limit the diving to off the reef shelf. And then fire all those sponge picking DMs and get some responsible people in.

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#28 DuikKees

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 07:11 AM

Scubadru:
Don't worry, you have to bring a lot more to knock us of. :lol:
Too bad for you, the hot Dutch girls go for plastic housings.

But the fact remains indeed that we did a lot of "work" in those regions. I encountered that a couple of weeks ago in Sulawesi, the people over there have still mixed feelings about the Dutch and I can't blame them.

I really can't blame the people for dynamitefishing either, if my kids (if I had them) were hungry I would do anything. Parking a vessel on the reef for commercial reasons is a total different story.

#29 Kelpfish

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 11:16 AM

I feel lucky that I was at Sipadan in the early days before it was a flow blown resort and overdived. Having a max of 30 divers on the island, with different dive schedules meant only about 4-6 divers on a site at a time. That was diving!
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#30 Scubaskeeter

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 05:07 PM

Messages/faxes sent, thanks Drew, for posting the names. I'm weary of losing things I haven't seen yet. Maylasia has come a long way in 30 years, maybe this incident will reinforce their commitments to the environment.

I got a reply:
============
Dear Scott Linge,

Thank you for your e-mail of which I have forwarded to the appropriate
authority to respond i.e the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment
Sabah through its Permanent Secretary.

The matter is being investigated by the relevent authorities for appropriate
affirmative actions against the culprits. Please rest assured our government
and the Sabah Tourism Board is fully committed to the conservation of
Sipadan and its suprerb marine environment, and that any development must be
sustainable and in harmony with nature

Regards,

Tengku Adlin
----- Original Message -----
From: "Scott Linge" <>
To: <adlin@sabahtourism.com>
Sent: Thursday, May 18, 2006 11:30 PM
Subject: Accident at Sipidan


> Dear Chairman,
>
> I was saddened to learn that a barge grounded and beached at Sipidan
> Island,
> Sabah, causing great damage to the coral reef. I am a scuba diver, but
> haven't yet made the trip to that area, but intend to dive there soon.
>
> Sipidan is a renowned treasure that almost all scuba divers around the
> world
> desire to dive. Please make every effort to continue the sancutary status
> and protection this world class reef so that dive tourism may continue to
> protect the environment there.
>
> Best regards,
> Scott Linge
> Minnesota, USA
>
>
>

#31 frogfish

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 07:12 PM

The Sipadan debacle is different. A barge with gravel parked on the pier for what reason? To fill the island's toilets? Ever heard of forest growth? Fishermen not knowing better is one thing. An intentional abuse of the system by having gravel and bulldozer is totally different and more heinous, even if it was probably an accident by errant workers.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


What reason? Hmmm. What possible reason could there be for a barge be unload "tonnes of coarse gravel, sand, steel tubes, iron mesh ... bulldozer and a gigantic crane" on Sipadan? Let's all scratch our heads.

There have been stories for years that powerful and politically-well-connected Malaysian property interests had their eye on Sipadan to develop it as an upscale resort, and were only waiting until the international court finally decided the dispute with Indonesia over which country really owned the island in Malaysia's favor before moving to kick the existing dive operators off the island and begin construction.

It's all very sad, but not surprising. What will be surprising, and also sad, is how many people (and dive publications) will be willing forget about the "unavoidable little problems during the construction phase" and accept comped trips, take photographs, write articles and phto essays about how the new Sipadan resort is such a paradise, etc. etc. Watch this place.

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#32 Drew

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 08:44 PM

Yup which is precisely why individual divers should become vocal in this matter. Kah Kiat is reacting badly to the protests, precisely because he is now on the hot seat being so visible.
Their official reason for the barge is for tourist facilities (including restaurants!) for day trippers. 5 resorts have abandoned buildings and a jetty and he needs to bring a barge of building materials? It's fun to see that the international dive community is now the big brother for malaysia. Now if we could work on the philippines and indonesia.

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#33 FishandRice

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 11:04 PM

Does anyone actually know where this story about the crashed turtles come from? Has actually anyone seen any crashed turtles caused by the "barge incident"?

Has anyone seen the fisherman with a net full of caught Barracudas from Sipadan as reported by a photographer in another forum, if not how reliable is the source of information?

I beg you, don't just believe anything you read in forums and blogs...I'm involved in documentary filmmaking and for us the rules says: Any fact need to be confirmed by at least two independent sources.

I have seen the damage caused by the barge, yes it's true it is a disaster, yes it is good it has been made public and I'm sure the Sabah Government will act immediately....but please don't blow it out of proportion.
Rather compare it to the impact legal activities such as fishing trawlers, mining, plantations have on the marine environment.

The damage is on a few hundred square metre big patch on top of the reef near the beach. For the ones who haven't been there, I have attached a satellite picture of Sipadan Island with the damaged area marked in red. The rest of the reef and fishlife is as good as ever. In one word: World Class.

With dramatizing the incident and publishing rumors of conspiracy and total destruction you do more damage then you do good.
Think about the general impact on the economy, and I'm not talking about the rich & famous here, but more about the many families who depend on Sabah's tourism industry, living from a monthly salary that couldn't even pay the 1GB memory card in your digital SLR's.

Please use the internet to report confirmed facts not to sensationalize. Thank you.

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#34 Drew

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 01:36 AM

Fishandrice
I fully agree that sensationalism is not good. However, the fact remains that through mismanagement and lack of enforcement, the accident happened and the results are not good.
Bernama news and New Sabah News reported Chong Kah Kiat (minister of tourism Sabah) saying that the barge was carrying steel pipes, gravel and heavy equipment to build "tourist facilities like restaurants and toilets for the visitors."
There was existing infrastructure when the resorts were closed, including kitchens and toilets at the pier (Borneo divers). Instead of building all new again and creating more damage, modifying existing structures would've been more efficient and less intrusive. Sure hindsight is 20/20. But didn't they shut down the resorts to stop further damage to the island?
Kah Kiat himself said the " rubbish pile up was unsightly" and so were the structures themselves. So the idea is to build more and encourage more rubbish by having the restaurant?
I understand that the rumors of someone else forcing out the resorts mostly came from disgruntled resort staff. And there is no verification of this except to say let's see in 10 years.
I disagree that writing in to show our support of conserving the area is detrimental to the lives of the locals in KK, Tawau, Sempoerna and the resorts around Mabul/Kapalai.
No one has said the coral around the island is completely dead. People who are there now have said it is only a small part of the island affected, a few hundred square meters. However if you have been to sipadan you know turtles sleep in the shallows all the time and gravel from the barge had to come down fast and hard. I'm willing to put money there'll be a lot of dead stuff under the rubble. Sipadan is not a place to worry about a few dead turtles though, but other places (like the rest of SEA) are. There is also no mention of the barracudas being caught in this forum. Yes rumors are vicious but most of the people on Wetpixel are no idle fools (ok I am not one of these people). We do know how to separate fact from rumor.
The fact is the barge was NOT suppose to be there, shouldn't have been there and wasn't shooed off. And damage is done. As for the building materials and equipment, yes the island is malaysian and it's up to them what they want to do with it, but if they want tourists to spend money to visit the place, they should take better care of the place. As tourists, we are just reminding them of that conserving it will bring more tourists, letting it slide into a wasteland will not.

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#35 frogfish

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 05:07 AM

I understand that the rumors of someone else forcing out the resorts mostly came from disgruntled resort staff. And there is no verification of this except to say let's see in 10 years.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Fair enough, though I'd place the source of the rumours I heard about what was really going on at Sipadan a bit higher than "disgruntled [former] resort staff".

Scubadru is quite right to point out that the all the stories about big players moving in to build a new resort on Sipadan are just that, rumours, and unverified. As scubadru days, let's see in 10 years. (Though I think we would all know sooner than that.) Nobody would be happier than I if this proved completely unfounded.

I am glad to see that the extent of damage is less than the first postings seemed to suggest. But the reported explanation - that the construction materials were being brought in to build "tourist facilities like restaurants and toilets for visitors" is hardly consistent with the claimed rationale for shutting down the resorts on the island "to conserve balanced eco-systems for sipadan and its surroundings." Also, the current wikipedia item for Sipadan (who is doing this?) says that Chief Minister Seri Musa Aman has contradicted the claimed explanation of the incident and materials that was issued by State Minister of Tourism Kuat, though I haven't been able to verify this. Does anyone know what's really going on?

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#36 Drew

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 07:27 AM

Political blame laying I imagine. With the news attracting a lot of international attention (hey even CDNN covered it :blink: ), Datuk Musa in his press statement on Friday said (quote from Sabah Times):
"Musa who is also Finance Minister, said the project proposal was submitted to him in May last year and that as far as he knew, the scope of the project was only RM2.6 million.
He said he had asked his SUT (Finance Ministry’s permanent secretary) to check and brief him on the project.
The project undertaken by Kumpulan Surati Sdn Bhd was initiated by the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry through Sabah Parks.
“This should not have happened…it is unacceptable,” he said of the damage done to corals by the steel barge when it anchored at Sipadan’s dropoff point early this week.
Musa added that he believed they received the green light from the Joint Committee to oversee Sipadan which involved both the state and federal governments.
“The reason we asked the operators to vacate the island a few years ago was because we did not want any major development on the island.
“We wanted to protect the environment in Sipadan…there should not be any construction of heavy structures using steel and concrete there,” he added.
Musa also said facilities like toilets should be built using lighter and environmentally-friendly materials. The Sabah Parks, he pointed out had failed in carrying out its duties."

Seems to me that Sabah Parks initiated a project to build facilities on Sipadan again. 2.6million ringgit is substantial for a restaurant and toilets. I think the effort to make it a UNESCO World Heritage site just bombed with this incident. Which is another reason why Kah Kiat is reacting badly to the bad press about the damage.

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#37 xtremediver

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 03:53 AM

An official reply to one of my emails:
Thank you for your e-mail. We appreciate your concern of the tragic barge incident that has seriously damaged the patch of pristine coral reefs at the drop- off Sipadan Island last week.

Please rest assured that our government and indeed the Sabah Parks Board are committed to the conservation of Sipadan and its superb marine environment. Any development must be in harmony with nature and ecologically sustainable.There are no two ways about it and must be stringently enforced.

Our Chief Minister the Right Honourable Datuk Seri Musa Aman has immediately ordered a full probe on this most unfortunate and inexcusable incident. He has also ordered the immediate suspension of all construction activiities on the island until further notice and he added any facillities should be built of lighter and environmentally friendly materials.

As you are aware Sipadan is considered a world treasure for its dramatic undersea landscapes,deep drop-offs and abundant wildlife.The recent accident is no doubt a terrible ocurrence......however, one must consider the larger picture.

The Semporna area is home to Malaysia's largest concentration of coral reefs and Sipadan is but one small reef, albeit a special one. Other reefs are much larger and harbour globally important bioiversity. According to WWF, "the scar that was created by the barge will probably heal naturally over time with litle help from people. Fortunately, Sipadan is a healthy reef and re-colonisation of the reef should be relatively rapid". It is to be noted that the area of coral reefs around Sipadan is sixteen ( 16 ) square kilometres and the pristine coral reefs severely damaged by the barge are the size of two tennis courts.

Our government with its relevant agencies together with stakeholders and the local communities willl take the necessaary actions to rehabillitate and conscerve Sipadan, and also the surrounding reefs, seagrasses and mangroves in the Semporna area.They are our precious natural heritage that we will conserve for our future generations.

Regards,



Tengku Adlin
Chairman
Sabah Tourism Board
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#38 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 12:07 AM

Tony Wu has posted a balanced article on FiNS offering some considered opinion on the accident. Well worth a read:
http://www.finsonlin...blog/fins/?p=55

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#39 clownphoto

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 09:32 AM

Gosh, it's great to see some balanced reviews....thanks, Alex, for keeping your head level and sharing Tony's views too....
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#40 Drew

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 07:59 PM

Alex Thanks for the article.
I do however still iterate that the public fallout from this incident has had a good effect. Had there been no publicity, the investigations would've been slow and the culprits get off with a little handslap.
And I seriously doubt that there will be boycotts based on this accident. Divers will continue to go because the diving is good. I'd say not many care about the political aspects of places they go on holiday, so as long as the diving is good and they are safe, they'll keep going.
I think the malaysia government is fearful of this bad publicity, but I doubt it'd affect tourist visits vs the Abu Sayaf incident, which was what really hurt the place.
Obviously there are worse incidents (Sulawesi and cyanide poisoning is definately bigger!) but Sipadan is an icon for divers in SEA. And I think UNESCO sponsorship is unnecessary (due to the tourism industry and lack of any destructive activity close by) because the Malaysia government and local businesses should be responsible and be able to manage their ricebowl. This incident just reminds them to not get complascent.

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