Saturday, August 13

Move to limit number of visitors to Pulau Mabul

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KOTA KINABALU: Sabah may impose a limit on the number of visitors allowed daily at another of its popular diving destination, Pulau Mabul.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Bolkiah Ismail said a study will be conducted to look at the need for implementing a policy similar to that at Pulau Sipadan to reduce the pressure caused by tourism activities on the island’s highly diverse and sensitive ecosystem.

“There are a number of islands, not just Mabul, that are overdeveloped. And we need to come up with a policy to regulate these islands, which in future are expected to be exposed to even more human activities,” he said when met at a stakeholder consultation workshop for Sabah Island Management Plan here yesterday.

Bolkiah said that with the number of visitors in Mabul increasing every year, the agency concerned needs to act quickly to ensure the growing popularity will not spell the end for the island.

He said a concrete and well planned measure needs to be set in place to control the impact of the increasing human activities on the marine and as well as land ecosystems, not only at Mabul but also other surrounding islands.

He said the ministry will gather inputs and suggestions from all stakeholders concerned, including tourism operators before introducing any new regulation for managing the islands.

He said limiting the number of visitors has been proven to be an effective way of sustainably managing the impact of development on the fragile island ecosystems in the long run.

However, he said, the impact that such policy may have on the tourism operators must also be taken into consideration, as it may not only affect their business but also their participation in promoting and developing sustainable tourism activities at these islands.

“We need to find a win-win solution where the operators themselves can play an active role, and we need their cooperation in implementing something like this. They need to understand the fact the number of tourists being brought in needs to be limited in order to protect the island, and how such policy will benefit everyone in the long run,” he said.

Bolkiah noted such method of limiting the number of visitors has been very successful at Pulau Sipadan, which is until today has remained one of the top diving destinations in the world.

“The decision to implement this policy at Sipadan was accurate, and the thriving ecosystem there is the proof of this,” he said.

To a question, Bolkiah said there were only a few islands in Sabah facing threat from over development and necessary measures were already being taken to address the issue.

Meanwhile, he added, there were also a number of high potential islands that were still underdeveloped.