Saturday, August 15

Handlers to be held liable if tourists disturb marine life – Masidi

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KOTA KINABALU: All tourism industry players, including dive masters and tour agents found guilty of knowingly allowing their tourists to illegally handle and disturb marine life, will soon be penalized.

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun said he had instructed Sabah Parks to look into the possibility of putting the responsibility on tour companies and dive masters to ensure their clients knew the do’s and don’ts when they dived.

“I have asked Dr Jamili Nais (Sabah Parks director) to find out whether there are existing provisions in the enactment that allow us to penalize.

“If there is none, I think it is high time for us to seriously look into it before things get out of hand,” he said after launching the new office of Sabah Tourist Guides Association (STGA) at Lintas Square here yesterday.

Masidi said he often received complaints about irresponsible tourists handling marine life, which was an offence in some countries.

He said that doing so could jeopardize the well-being of marine life and more importantly, send the wrong signal to other tourists.

He said Western tourists were sensitive to such issue and bad publicity in the media could deter them from visiting Sabah.

As such, Masidi said there was a need for some form of mechanism in place that would hold handlers of the tourists liable if their clients were found guilty of disturbing marine life.

He said tour companies or dive masters might need to show proof that they have informed their clients on the dos and don’ts before diving in the future.

“Perhaps it can be in a form of a piece of paper written in the language that their customers can understand, which will be read to them before they embark on the dive.

“We need to protect marine life. If everybody can do anything on their dive, our reputation will go down the drain,” he stressed.