Reef balls to create diving haven off Similajau park


BINTULU: A collaboration between Malaysia LNG Group of Companies and Sarawak Forestry hopes to turn the waters of Similajau National Park into a diving haven in 10 years, following the deployment of 1,500 reef balls within the next three years.

Under the Biodiversity, Environment and Conservation (Beacon) Project, a total of 250 reef balls will be dropped into the sea off the coast of the park beginning today in an effort to provide sanctuary for marine life, as well as to deter trawlers from fishing in an area identified as a ‘turtle highway’.

Sarawak Forestry’s Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation unit deputy general manager Oswald Braken Tisen told reporters that peak landing season is between May to August, but the numbers at Similajau are low.

“The landings are very few. Most are concentrated on Talang-Talang and Satang islands. We hope to set up a turtle hatchery here if the numbers increase,” he said, adding that they will have sufficient cause if there is at least one nesting per night.

The Beacon Project was launched on April 12 this year. The planning and implementation work were carried out by the Beacon Taskforce and Technical Working Committee, both made up of MLNG and Sarawak Forestry staff.

Since the implementation of reef balls in the Sematan and Telaga Air area in 1999, the number of dead adult turtles found along the beaches there decreased from 70-100 (before 1998) to 20 annually.

The reef balls act to discourage illegal trawling activities by destroying fishing nets.

At the same time, it gives the marine ecosystem and diversity to rebuild and recover by encouraging growth of coral reef acting as a refuge, nursery and breeding ground for fish.

Reef balls have been used by over 80 countries for various purposes such as reef rehabilitation/restoration, anchor, scuba diving sites, research sites, beach erosion control and a tool for mangrove replanting.