Sabah Parks’assistant director (operation and enforcement) Maipol Spait showing a map of the protected waters. Pix by Fardy Bungga

KOTA KINABALU: Six tour companies were compounded for carrying out fishing activity within the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP) without permission.

Sabah Parks’ enforcement team identified the companies, which offered fishing activity package to tourists, via its special operation dubbed Ops Pancing following public complaints.

The Parks’ assistant director (operation and enforcement) Maipol Spait said each company was issued a RM3,000 compound and a stern warning.

“During the operation yesterday, we detained 15 tourist boats and found six of them committing the offence.

“Actually, tour operators are already aware of this (fishing ban) and we have conducted briefing session with them twice. The last was end of August,” he told reporters in a press conference at Sabah Parks jetty here, today.

Maipol stressed that organising fishing activity within TARP is an offence under the Sabah Parks Enactment 1984 and Sabah Parks Regulations 1984, adding that he hopes tour operators will be more responsible in complying with the rules.

Recently, conservationists, including a diving fraternity, called on the authority to act against tour operators offering tourists with fishing activity package at the marine park, which covers five islands namely Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik, Sulug, and Gaya.

Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre manager Scott Mayback, who is also a marine biologist, said many tour operators were breaking the rules and there was a lack of monitoring as well as enforcement.

He said tour companies charging tourists to fish within the protected marine park’s boundaries was a clear breach of law, stressing such illegal fishing will threaten the marine ecosystem within the protected areas.

Meanwhile, another three dive tour operators were also issued RM1,500 compound each for failing to display their dive flag, while carrying out leisure diving activity within TARP.

Maipol said a dive tour company is required to display dive flag for safety reason in accordance with the international law when conducting scuba diving activity.

They also required to register their diving activity with Sabah Parks office prior to bringing their guests for leisure dive.

“In yesterday’s operation, we have also issued RM1,000 compound each to two tour operators for organising banana boat and parasailing activities within authorised marine park areas,” concluded Maipol.

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