Foundation to conserve coastal fisheries in Kudat

The longhouse for guests to stay.

The longhouse for guests to stay.

Somuil and his wife Norzailly in front of their restaurant.

Somuil and his wife Norzailly in front of their restaurant.

KOTA KINABALU: A non-profit foundation will be working towards the conservation of coastal fishing ground around Kampung Terongkongan in Kudat.

BEST Society has offered to commit RM100,000 over the next ten years to work on conservation of the coastal reef fishing ground around Kampung Terongkongan, which is about two and a half hours’ drive from here.

This initiative will include educating the local residents there on the far-reaching impact of fish bombing, and to help restore marine life to allow it to recover from fishing bombing activities in the past.

Making such an offer was Albert Teo, director-cum-founder of BEST Society which is the non-profit foundation of Borneo Eco Tours and Sukau Rainforest Lodge

Teo, who is also the managing director/chairman of Borneo Eco Tours Malaysia, said BEST Society had decided to undertake the project following a recent visit there, where he learnt about the depressing tale of rampant fish bombing in the area, from a local Rungus couple who are operating their homestay outfit there.

The couple, Somuil and Norzailly, had voiced their concern over the increasing fish bombing activities near their beach.

According to Norzailly, these illegal fishermen normally come in small boats and would use their homemade bombs to fish.

“This method of fishing not only kills a large number of fish and other marine organisms in the vicinity but also destroys the physical structure of coral reefs. On average, a one kilogram (35 ounce) beer-bottle bomb can leave a rubble crater of approximately one to two meters in diameter, destroying 50 to 80 per cent of the corals in that area.

“If nothing is done to stop such activities, it will eventually lead to worsening poverty and even malnutrition among the local folk there.

“We hope to get support from other NGOs and the relevant government departments in this effort to eradicate poverty. Anyone who is interested to join us fight against poverty are welcome to join us in this project,” said Teo in a statement yesterday.

He expressed both concern and regret that such activities were seriously hampering the effort of natives like Somuil and Norzailly to uplift their living standard.

“Somuil is one person who genuinely tries to bring change to the community by developing homestay and tourism, snorkelling and scuba diving.

“But his effort to eradicate poverty through eco-tourism is being hampered by fishermen from outside the village who are systematically destroying the coral reefs and killing marine life.

“He knows that it is not easy for the authorities to tackle this problem. However, he is confident that with the help of the authorities and stringent law enforcement, they can overcome this problem. He believed a lot of great things can be achieved with positive thinking and perseverance,” Teo noted.

He also regretted that although many reports had been lodged with the Marine Department and many patrols by the marine police, these illegal fishermen still return and continue with their fish bombing activities.

In Malaysia, bombing is an offence and any individual caught could be charged under Section 26(1) of the Fisheries Act 1985 which carries a maximum fine of up to RM20,000, or a jail term of up to two years, or both, on conviction.

Named Tindakon Dazang Beach Longhouse, the long house operated by Somuil, consists of 12 rooms and a restaurant and meeting room on an eight-acre land facing the South China Sea.

According to his wife Norzailly, the walls of the house are entirely made of traditional materials such as split bamboos and Darasan tree bark while the roofs are made of nipah palm leaves.

The longhouse is equipped with modern amenities like toilets and showers.

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