Saturday, July 11

Sabah’s first pro-conservation pontoon

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Reporter Stephanie Lee photographing the marine life with her handphone.

PULAU GAYA: The Borneo Reef World (BRW), a floating pontoon set between Pulau Gaya and Pulau Sapi, is Sabah’s first pro-conservation pontoon.

BRW marine biologist Tulasiramanan Ramachandram, in his briefing on the facilities available at the pontoon yesterday, said the pontoon is 888 square meters in size and floats right above a multi-arrayed network of marine lifeforms in the prime centre of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.

“The design and specification of this pontoon is of the same structure found in the Great Barrier Reefs of Cairns, Australia, built by English engineering to withstand open hurricanes at Scale 7, and is able to accommodate a maximum of 500 people on board at any one time,” he said.

He added that the pontoon is fully equipped with all basic amenities and equipment for in-water activities, all for the pleasure of viewing the natural underwater display of marine life.

Tulasiramanan

“Underwater observatory that overlooks a blooming reef, gives you a feeling of being up and close to marine life.

“And for the more adventurous, the facility also provides sea-walking with the guidance of field experts,” he said.

Additionally, scuba diving is also available. The pontoon also comes with a touch pool whereby patrons are taught how to handle marine life with care.

Tulasiramanan said BRW had adopted the green concept and was synonymous with conservation of marine life.

“All our activities and actions are pro-environment safety and as such we expect our customers to feel so as well. All materials on board BRW are Environment Ministry certified in a single goal to protect and nurture marine life,” he said.

He added that throughout the world, 30 per cent of coral reefs had already been destroyed due to destructive fishing, coastal construction, sewage run-offs and careless human actions.

“In our fight to conserve the beauty of this marine life, BRW has its own Marine Research Centre to uptake marine conservation seriously. We conduct marine research on board the pontoon to monitor water quality changes, plankton diversity and coral propagation. To improve the conditions, we have established coral planting and artificial reef structures to enable marine life to propagate,” he said.

Tulasiramanan said coral sand marine life, though they live in an open environment, are fragile, and very sensitive to small changes in their marine environment.

“A small change in saltiness or an addition of soap or detergent in seawater can vastly affect a coral reef. Similar to how turtles mistake plastic bags for jelly fish as food, and sharks mistake the shiny surface of a coke can for a swimming fish, corals also absorb the soap into their diet.

“The average growth rate of a hard coral is from 1 cm to 15 cm per year. Any disturbance here will make them grow even slower and further stunt the coral growth and affect the whole marine life ecosystem as a whole.”