Get prior approval before diving in Sultan Ismail Marine Park: Sultan Ibrahim

MERSING: The Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has decreed that all scuba divers wishing to undertake diving activities at the Sultan Iskandar Marine Park (TLSI) must get prior approval and register themselves at the Mersing District Council here, besides having proper insurance coverage.

He said this was not only to ensure their safety, but also to protect the beautiful coral reefs in the marine park.

"(All scuba divers) must get approval ... you cannot just come all the way from Singapore or anywhere else, and dive here," he said after gracing the Coral Restoration Programme and signing the Malaysia Book of Records' (MBOR) recognition for the largest 1Malaysia simultaneous coral reef plantation programme in Pulau Tinggi here today.

During the programme held in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the Malaysian Marine Park Department (MMPD) , the Sultan also joined 42 scuba divers from various agencies to plant 1,200 coral seeds on the underwater PVC frame in Pulau Mentinggi, which is part of Pulau Tinggi.

Also present were MMPD deputy director-general Ab Rahim Gor Yaman, State Health, Environment, education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat, Mersing District Officer Ashari Kasnan and Johor MMPD director Mohd Nizam Ismail.

Sultan Ibrahim said during the dive, he could see that many coral reefs had been damaged, mostly hit by boats being docked at their whims and fancy.

He said he would come back and dive in Pulau Mentinggi in the next two years to check the progress of the coral seeds planted today.

Meanwhile, Ayub said apart from taking serious note of the Sultan's decree and doing the necessary to ensure that all scuba divers were registered and have insurance coverage before undertaking any activity in TLSI, the state government would also ensure that the park's marine ecosystem, including coral reefs, would be preserved and that the whole area would not be encroached by illegal fishermen.

"We will carry out enforcement together with other relevant agencies, including the MMPD, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Fisheries Department and Johor National Park Corporation," he said, adding that the TLSI was also a habitat for dugong.

So far, 13 islands in Mersing had been gazetted as part of TLSI and eight other uninhabited islands around the area were waiting to be gazetted in a bid to expand the TLSI. — Bernama