With permission, from "Sarawak Tribune", Front Page, Thursday, June 18, 1998

Sarawak scores Asian First in marine life conservation

By Fraser Barui

KUCHING - Sarawak has become the first in Asia to use environment-friendly American-manufactured "Reef Balls" to conserve its marine life - turtles in particular. Yesterday, the Sarawak Reef Ball Working Group Project 1 (Talang-Talang Region) was launched amid high hopes that marine life conservation in the State would be greatly enhanced by the US technology. Environment and Public Health Minister Datuk Amar James Wong was proud to note that the various government agencies had been able to coordinate a planned attack on the threats to marine life.

"We now have the opportunity to start a model for the rest of Asia in planned and responsible marine conservation," he said at the launching ceremony. "The Reef Ball project and the formation of the Sarawak Reef Ball Working Group are carried out to oversee all proposed reef projects in the State and ensure a coordinated approach to marine life conservation."

The Group consists of representatives from the Environment and Public Health Ministry, Tourism Ministry, Social Development Ministry, the Turtle Board, the Marine Fisheries Department, the Sarawak Museum, the Sarawak Tourism Board, the Marine Department, the Natural Resource and Environment Board and the Forestry Department working in collaboration with the Reef Ball Development Group Limited, Florida, USA.

For Project One, 1,500 reef balls of different sizes will be placed in the Talang Talang region this year. Other selected areas, including Similajau in Bintulu, have also been identified for the project, depending on funding and the results of the first project. Datuk Amar Wong disclosed that the Environment and Public Health Ministry had allocated RM300,000 for the Talang Talang project.

VIP ATTENTION ... Datak Amar Wong examines a Reef Ball wihle Forestry National Park and Wildlife Marine Biologist, Mr. Ian Buter (right) and a trainer from Reef Ball Development Group, Mr. Larry D. Beggs.

On reef ball technology, he explained: "Unlike other artificial reefs and barriers, such as barges, tyres and used car bodies, which are found to be detrimental to marine environment and life, reef balls constructed from fiberglass molds, using cement with the same pH as natural sea water, contain no toxins or biologically active compounds.

Datuk James Wong pointed out that it was not the State government's intention to make life difficult for fishing trawlers. "These reef balls are only meant for areas like Talang Talang and Satang Islands and other areas that need protection to conserve the marine life in the vicinity and the environment as a whole," he said.

He hoped more companies would come forward to sponsor the manufacturing of Reef Balls.