Fish bombing kills three divers

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(A) Mark Blomfield

Two Chinese tourists and a local dive master have been killed by fish bombs while diving in waters off Semporna on Sabah’s east coast on July 5th. Sabah police commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah confirmed the deaths.

It is believed that the local dive master was underwater with the two male Chinese tourists on a scuba dive at about 5pm when the incident happened.

Those killed were Malaysian divemaster Ab Zainal Abdu, 30, and Chinese nationals Zhao Zhong, 26, and Xu Yingjie, 26.

Sabah’s maritime and tourism community were in shock over the deaths, the Singapore Strait Times reported. The police are investigating the case believed to be the first involving the deaths of divers from fish bombing activities. Such activities involve the use of explosives to stun or kill fish so they can be easily collected.

Sabah Chief Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal said it was time for “stern action” to be taken, as such bombing activities had been going on for a long time, with damaging effects on the environment.

Malaysia’s World Wildlife Fund called for urgent efforts by the authorities to combat such illegal activities that were now a “life and death” issue. The group’s Monique Sumampouw, called for all-out efforts to stop “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing, in particular fish bombs, and also the banning of pump boats, which are usually associated with illegal fishing activities.

A four-month study conducted by WWF-Malaysia in Semporna between June and September 2018 recorded a total of 263 fish bombings. Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Sabah director Kamaruszaman Abu Hassan said the deaths of the divers shocked the maritime community in Sabah’s eastern Semporna area and also cast a shadow on the credibility of the coastguards in dealing with fish bombing.

In another report two men had been arrested in connection with the deaths.

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