MIRI: The Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) in collaboration with Petronas is deploying 600 artificial reef balls at the Niah-Suai waters in Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park (MSCRNP) here in their efforts to further intensify marine life conservation and protection.
Deputy State Secretary (Rural Transformation) Datu Jaul Samion launched the deployment of the reef balls, each weighing a tonne, into the ocean floor this today which will take about one week to complete.
Speaking to reporters after the launching ceremony at Niah-Suai waters near a floating barge laden with the reefs, Jaul said the artificial reef balls were the final batch deployed at the coral reefs under a five-year programme implemented by SFC and the national oil company under its Eco-Marine Project.
The five-year project, which kicked off in 2015, aims to deploy 1,750 reef balls in three stages to protect the natural reefs and marine life from illegal trawlers activities in marine national park, while creating new diving and sport-fishing site to boost eco-tourism within the 186,930 hectares (ha) MSCRNP in northern Sarawak.
A total of 550 artificial reef balls were deployed in 2016 in Sibuti-Bungai waters and another 600 units have been deployed last year. The remaining 600 units are now being deployed at Niah-Suai waters starting last Friday (March 22).
“The reef balls deployment under the Eco-Marine Project envisages on improving the fish and other marine life of MSCRNP.
“This is evidence by the success in the waters of Sematan where amount of catches had improved significantly after reef balls had been deployed,” said Jaul.
“As we progressively keep the waters of Miri-Sibuti away from illegal trawlers, marine species would be able to grow and reproduce, providing a consistent source of income for traditional fishermen living along the shores of Miri-Sibuti.
“The locals who buy fish and other marine produce from these fishermen would be able to enjoy them at affordable prices,” he added.
The Eco-Marine Project is being carried out with financial support from Petronas under its ‘corporate social responsibility’ initiatives for marine conservation in the state government through SFC, which provides technical expertise and know-how in the management of Totally Protected Areas, conservation and biodiversity in Sarawak.
Under this project, Petronas allocated RM8 million for reef balls deployment, periodical reef checks, and implement the Conservation, Education, Promotion and Awareness (CEPA) programme designed to enhance public awareness of the importance of marine conservation and protection.
In later stage, would also involved capacity building for marine park guiding and scuba diving training for relevant and interested parties.
Among those present at the launching ceremony were Assistant Minister for Women, Family and Childhood Development cum Bekenu assemblywoman Rosey Yunus, Miri Resident Mastapha Julaihi, Petronas Sarawak General Manager Zulaihi Mohd Mantali, SFC General Manager Oswald Braken, SFC biologist cum project manager James Bali and Kpg Lajong Kuala Niah village head Ahmad Ajak.