Reef balls bring back marine life to our waters, says minister
  Malaysian Today
KUCHING: The reef balls seeded at the Talang-Satang Marine National Park have successfully brought marine life back to state coastal waters. Minister of Social Development and Urbanisation, Datuk Sri Dr. James Masing revealed in a me-dia chat on "Conservation and Enhancement of Sea Turtles in Sarawak" at De-wan Muhibbah, Merdeka Palace Hotel here Wednes-day night. The event was organised by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation and Sarawak State Tourism Action Council. "The number of fish at Pulau Talang-Talang, Pulau Talang-Satang, and Tanjung Datu area has already increased six fold because of the reef balls," he said. He said the data was based on the catch of local fishermen m seas surrounding the National Park There are now an es-timated 1,500 reef balls around Pulau Talang-Talang since the seeding pro-ject was started in 1998. He said the artificial reef was important as home for the fish to seek protection Rom predators and also to protect marine life, especially the turtles from large fishing trawlers that encroach illegal into these prohibited fishing areas. The islands are turtle nesting areas. Masing said there was less danger of turtles swimming to their nesting grounds and getting caught in trawler nets as the trawlers were now afraid to trawl in the park for fear their nets would get entan gled with the reef balls. Talang-Satang National Park was gazetted in 1999 water bodies within 4.8 km radius of the high-est point of each of the islands are totally Protect-ed areas and it was ex-tended to cover water bod-ies at Tanjung Datu National Park and Similajau National Park. The number of turtles reported dead or stranded in fishing nets every year declined after the project commenced, Masing said. He added there used to be an average of about 70 turtles reported dead alter getting entangled in the trawl nets but now there were only about 30. More reef balls are needed but the problem n the manufacturing cost of around RM400 to RM480 per ball but when trans-portation costs are includ-ed, each site ball could cost no less than RM800. Masing said the project was a collaboration be tween 13 states and the Federal department, adding that other than government finds, the project was supported by collections fromprivate institutions and he urged more members of the public to contribute to the project. Around 400 units Of the reef ball will be deployed by state Marine fisheries Department this year. Meanwhile, another conservationist, Hans Isaac, who is filming the coral reefs in Malaysian waters, was surprised by the coral reefs at Miri, saying that after diving there for the first time with crew from Tall Order Production Sdn Bhd. they found the reefs either sim-ilar or better than coral reefs at the famous Sipadan Islands in Sabah. Hans was also sur-prised that these reefs were yet to be promoted as tourism spots, especiallv for divers locally or internationally and to prove the quality of these reefs, he showed a recent video recording of the reef, with plenty of marine plants and fishes. Masing said he would Propose the creation of a Marine Park in Miri to change its present status of National Park, adding that efforts should be made to get diver tourists to visit the area and at the same time all the reefs in the area would be protected.