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Fish Bombing Kota Kinabalu's TAR Park


On Friday the Downbelow crew was on a high after working with a group of enthusiastic tourism students, showing them the splendour and magnificence of the beautiful marine park in which our dive centre is based; a major tourist attraction in the city.

On Saturday, however, all the euphoria evaporated when we descended upon a popular dive site only to discover a huge swathe of coral destroyed by fish bombing.

Fish bombing is an illegal method loosely termed fishing. It involves a crude, home-made explosive device that is dropped in the water where there are lots of fish, usually right on top of a reef.

When the explosives detonate, the resulting shock wave stuns or kills everything in the blast-radius. The "catch" then floats to the surface where it is collected by "fishermen".

Aside from claiming anything and everything in the blast-radius as victim, the impact on the reef is pure devastation. The explosion rocks the reef down to its very foundations, often dislodging hard and soft corals, which consequently dies with no chance of recovery.

Obviously this practice is a huge concern.  It is wholly unsustainable, because it kills marine life and the reefs that could attract life back in future.

It also threatens the livelihood of many people, as without healthy, beautiful reefs there will be much less reason for divers, snorkelers and ocean lovers to visit the park.

Fish bombing was a persistent problem some years back, but the local authorities, through park taxes and fees, managed to fund the fight to put an end to it.

The respite from fish bombing lead to the eventual recovery of reefs, and nowadays there are picturesque scenes of corals in the park, which is just 10 minutes from the city of Kota Kinabalu.

However, the long recovery is quickly being undone by the return of fish bombing.

Tourism revenue in the region is substantial, and the government has introduced tax breaks for companies that bring in certain volumes of overseas visitors.

Downbelow feels, however, that we would rather pay the extra taxes for better protection of the amazing natural resources found in the TAR Park.

Despite the destruction pictured, there are many more reefs with healthy corals where live thrives.  It needs added protection to survive though.

We have reported this discovery to the local authorities who acted swiftly and started an investigation into how this could happen. They, like us, were very disturbed by this incident.

Our aim now is to raise awareness of the plight of the TAR Park's precious coral reefs, so that they can receive more and urgent protection.

There are more images of both the destruction and the beauty that remains, pictured in this Facebook photo album. All the pictures came from the same dive site.

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