Four dive marshals from Malaysia have been appointed Sipadan’s first underwater enforcers. The team has been put in place to monitor divers and ensure they do not destroy or damage the coral reefs around the world-famous Sipadan Island.
Sipadan is a small volcanic island in the Celebes Sea, just off the east coast of Borneo. The diving around Sipadan is famous for its rich marine habitats and has been rated by many dive journals as one of the top dive destinations in the world.
It is hoped the presence of dive marshals will make divers less likely to trample or damage corals, and enhance protection of the marine environment.Tourism, Culture and Environment permanent secretary Ginun Yangus said “dive masters from various tour operators should also assist in ensuring tourists do not disturb or destroy coral.”
So far Yangus says the corals is doing well but finds that corals in some of the more ‘popular’ dive sites seem to be slightly stressed. “We have 12 diving points around Sipadan, but most people prefer going to Barracuda Point, Drop Off Point and South Point,” he said, urging visitors to look at other sites in the diving haven instead.
The dive sites of Sipadan are already protected and there is a total of 16,846.5h of coral reef and marine which are officially declared as park area. The number of divers is currently limited to 120 per day, and divers are only allowed to visit Sipadan between the hours of 8:00-15:00.
One of the biggest challenges in protecting marine parks is they can be very large in size which make it difficult and expensive to patrol. The relatively compact size of the Sipadan allow the marshals to patrol the entire reef and make it easier to monitor divers and dive boats at each site.
Although it is not possible to be everywhere at once, by sticking to the most popular areas the marshal have a good chance to be effective in monitoring the reef. By having an active team of dive marshals we hope this also brings more awareness to divers as the importance of proper buoyancy while enjoying the underwater world.