MIRI: Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) will achieve yet another milestone after completing the deployment of 1,750 artificial reef balls in Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park (MSCRNP), when 600 of the remaining reef balls are successfully deployed at Niah-Suai waters.
Speaking at the ceremony to lay the last batch of the artificial coral reefs at the marine park yesterday, Deputy State Secretary (Rural Transformation) Datu Jaul Samion said the reef balls were deployed under the Eco-Marine Project implemented by SFC in collaboration with Petronas.
The five-year project, which kicked off in 2015, aims at deploying 1,750 reef balls in three stages to protect the natural reefs and marine life from illegal trawling activities in the marine national park, while creating new diving and sport-fishing site to boost eco-tourism within the 186,930 ha MSCRNP in northern Sarawak.
A total of 550 artificial reef balls were deployed in 2016 in Sibuti-Bungai waters and another 600 units were deployed last year.
“The reef balls deployment under the Eco-Marine Project envisages on intensifying the marine life conservation and protection.
“It also helps in improving the fish and other marine life at Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park,” Jaul, who is also the project chairman, said, adding that the success is evident in the waters of Sematan where amount of catch had improved significantly after the reef balls were deployed.
Jaul was met by reporters after launching the deployment of the reef balls, each weighing a tonne, into the ocean floor of Niah-Suai waters, approximately half an hour from Kampung Lajong Kuala Niah yesterday. The deployment would take about one week to complete.
“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,” he added.
Commenting further, Jaul said locals who buy fish and other marine produce from these fishermen would also be able to enjoy them at affordable prices.
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 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 the later stage, the programme would also involve capacity building for marine park guiding and scuba diving training for relevant and interested parties.
In terms of ecotourism, Jaul said it could be a tourism attraction through diving and sport fishing activities.
“As the marine life of Miri-Sibuti is well-protected, more ecotourism activities such as diving and sport fishing could then be further explored, developed and promoted at the national park,” he said.
These activities would benefit the locals at large as the demand for related goods and services such as boat rental, diving equipment and others would provide a source of income for local operators and suppliers, he added.
The Miri-Sibuti Marine National Park is one of the largest marine parks in Sarawak that contribute to Malaysia’s conformance to the International Convention on Biological Diversity requirements for marine protected areas.
The park is home to many marine species such as sea turtles, whale sharks as well as coral reef complexes.
It is also part of the ‘Sea Turtle Highway’ or migratory routes where sea turtles head to its beaches to nest annually, yielding hundreds of tiny sea turtle hatchlings.
Among those present at the launching ceremony were Assistant Minister of Women, Family and Childhood Development and Bekenu assemblywoman Rosey Yunus, Miri Resident Mastapha Julaihi, Petronas Sarawak general manager Zulaihi M Mantali, SFC general manager Oswald Braken Tisen, SFC biologist cum project manager James Bali, Sarawak Marine Fisheries Department Region 3 head Buniamin Kiprawi and Kampung Lajong Kuala Niah village head Ahmad Ajak.