Divers are exposed to the danger of fish bombing in Kudat. PIC BY CHARLES MAWAN

KUDAT: A number of divers were almost injured by fish bombing near Tanjung Simpang Mengayau here recently.

A seasoned diver, who wants to be known as Lee, said there had been several bombing incidences in Kudat waters while he was diving.

“Recently, while we were diving near Simpang Tanjung Mengayau, the fish bombing was so close to us that (the blast) seemed to cause the tank to explode.

“Not only my ears were painful but also my chest was feeling very uncomfortable,” he said, adding that his eardrums were likely damaged because of the incident.

He added that those engaged in fish bombing usually avoided people at sea. There are 10 dive sites in Kudat waters.

Tourism here has recently flourished with activities such as diving, surfing, paragliding and homestay for visitors.

The Sabah Tourism Board recently hosted the inaugural Music and Surf Fest here which saw hundreds of visitors from places such as Bali, Brunei and Finland.

District officer Sapdin Ibrahim said fish bombing had been plaguing Kudat for a long time.

“There have been many complaints of fish bombing, which not only endangers people’s lives, including the perpetrators, but also harms the marine ecosystem.

“Due to the huge marine park of 8,000 sq km, it is difficult to monitor and catch the culprits despite many joint operations by several agencies,” he said, adding that the fish bombers could lurk anywhere and anytime.

However, since last year’s gazettement of Tun Mustapha Marine Park, which covers Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu, the incidences of fish bombing have gone down.

He said besides conducting operations, there had been awareness programme on the dangers of fish blasting and their effects on the marine ecosystem.

The Sabah Fisheries Department echoed Sapdin’s statement on the improved situation in Kudat.

“In the 1990s, there were many cases brought to court but it is fewer now.

“For the past two years, there were three cases where we confiscated 285kg of fishes,” said Fisheries Department deputy director (Legal and Enforcement) Md Yusof Abdullah, adding that the offence fell under the Fisheries Act 1985.

Since last year, the department had conducted 70 operations both at sea and at the market in Kudat.

He added that the department faced several constraints in tackling fish bombing.

Besides having no base in Kudat, there was also a staff shortage with only three enforcement personnel.

“Our small boat cannot go far, thus limiting our area of operation.

“However, the department has been conducting joint operations with agencies such as the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency and the marine police who have bigger assets.”

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