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Conservation group proposes new tech to eradicate fish bombing in Sabah

February 04, 2016

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 4 — A non-governmental organisation is looking to solve Sabah’s perennial fish bombing issues with ground-breaking technology that can detect blasts underwater in real time.

The Stop Fish Bombing (SFB) organisation is developing technology that uses underwater sensors to detect sound waves up to 25km away,and  can transmit the location of the blast using global positioning system within 20m margin between four and 10 seconds.

“It is a game changer. Detecting exactly where the blast is going off within seconds is going to be ground-breaking for enforcement efforts in curbing this illegal activity,” said one of SFB’s directors, Simon Christopher.

Fish bombing has been a problem in the marine-resource rich state for years. Considered wasteful, destructive to coral reefs, and unsustainable, the fishing method is illegal but hard to enforce due to logistical issues.

The fishermen fashion home-made bombs using bottles filled with fertiliser and kerosene and detonated by a fuse inserted through the nozzle. Small-time fishermen find this method provides bigger yield in shorter time, and can be applied at any time of the day.

Authorities are not able to locate where the blasts are from immediately due to vast bodies of water, and by the time they are told, the fishermen have either left, or gotten rid of the evidence, making it hard to prosecute culprits in court.

The Sabah Fisheries Department identifies between 60 and 80 cases of fishing bombing annually, but not many make it to court due to lack of evidence.

An independent survey by conservation groups estimates up to 15 bomb blasts per hour in some areas, contributing to the decline of coral reefs at an alarming rate. Sabah’s coral reefs bring in some RM384 million annually through its dive industry.

“The research and development for this new technology is extremely expensive but it is groundbreaking and will be a major boon for conservation efforts in Sabah. Sabah is lucky to be in this amazing position to be cast in the international conservation limelight,” said Christopher, when speaking to Malay Mail Online recently.

Using modified technology from a gunshot detection system currently in use in the United States of America, a Silicon-Valley-based technology company Shotspotter tried a prototype in Sabah last November with the support of Sabah Parks and Sabah Fisheries Department.

Proving successful, they are now hoping for industry players including dive operators and relevant government bodies to help fund the new technology for placement in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park off Kota Kinabalu to start off.

Stop Fish Bombing, a collaboration between media company Scubazoo, Shotspotter and Hong-Kong based Teng Hoi Conservation Organisation, are spearheading the committee to lead this effort in Sabah.

The Malay Mail Online