KOTA KINABALU: Mabul island in Semporna is a scuba diver’s haven as it is just a half-hour boat ride to the world famous diving paradise, Sipadan Island.
The island is now the setting for a new sporting activity – deep sea sport fishing – as the surrounding seas are teeming with tuna, dorado and giant barracuda among others.
With the aim of promoting deep sea sport fishing as a new tourism attraction for Semporna, Sipadan Dive Centre (SDC) recently held its Closed Mabul Fishing Challenge, which saw 26 hardcore anglers responding to the invitation to take up the challenge.
The anglers came from as far as Penang to respond to the challenge of hooking and landing the prized yellow fin tuna and the dorado, which is known to put up a good fight.
However, it was local angler, Ahmadul Tahir, whose 9.5kg yellow fin tuna took the first prize in the three-day two-night competition held from October 4 to 6.
In second place was Shan Lim with a 8kg tuna, while third was his cousin Preston Lim with a four kilogram mahi mahi. Ahmadul also took the dorado jackpot with his 4.5kg fish.
SDC general manager Wembly Mogindol, who was met at the company’s resort on Mabul, said that based on the good response and success of the event, they will be looking at offering fishing packages for their guests.
“There is good future for deep sea sport fishing here in Mabul and we will be making this Closed Mabul Fishing Challenge an annual event. We took only three months to plan and promote the event and the response was good despite the negative publicity from the Tanduo intrusion early this year.
“We planned the event after all the negative talks died down and we did not advertise the event. We only extended our invitation to certain people and we did mention it on social media which generated a lot of interest,” he said.
“We are hopeful that we can get 50 to 100 participants for next year,” Mogindol said, adding that the nine anglers from Penang, including the sole woman participant, were all from the Penang Swimming Club’s Angling section.
Mogindol, in his welcoming address at the dinner before the event, said that it was the brainchild of one of SDC’s owners who had envisaged that deep sea sport fishing could be another of Semporna’s popular tourism product other than scuba diving.
He added, “much is said of the fishing potential in the waters off Pulau Sipadan and the objective of this challenge is to promote sport fishing to add to the scuba diving activities in this region. This will further enhance the socio-economic opportunities for the villagers on the island by the way of boat hire and employing them as guides as well as assistance for the fishing packages.
“A successful outcome of this event and with the coordinated support from the state Fisheries Department and the Sabah Angler’s Association, sport fishing in this region will hopefully find its way into the state’s tourism calendar of events in time to come.
“If diving can be world class here, we believe sport fishing could well be too,” he said, adding that fishing is done at several ‘payau’ or fish aggregating devices (FAD) installed in 1.5km deep waters off the island.
Fishing at these FADs also promotes sustainable fishing as fishermen catch only what they need.
A fish aggregating (or aggregation) device (FAD) is a man-made object used to attract ocean going pelagic fish such as marlin, tuna and mahi-mahi (dolphin fish). They usually consist of buoys or floats tethered to the ocean floor with concrete blocks. Over 300 species of fish gather around FADs for numerous reasons that vary by species. Fish tend to move around FADs in varying orbits, rather than remaining stationary below the buoys. Both recreational and commercial fishing use FADs.
Before FADs, commercial tuna fishing used purse seining to target surface-visible aggregations of birds and dolphins, which were a reliable signal of the presence of tuna schools below. The demand for dolphin-safe tuna was a driving force for FADs.