New restrictions to preserve marine life – Sipadan Island, Malaysia.
Renowned as one of the best diving locations in the world, it was practically inevitable for further restrictions to be implemented to help safeguard biodiversity within the region. As of 29th of September 2022, Sabah Parks has done just that, implementing tighter restrictions for diving at Sipadan Island to help preserve the well-being of this marine ecosystem.
Sipadan’s rich and diverse ecosystem includes more than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species. Home to green and hawksbill sea turtles, schools of barracuda, bumphead parrotfish, manta rays, big-eye trevallies, and hammerhead sharks – its plethora of life is what captures an astounding amount of interest in visitation. However, due to the increased number of divers, Sabah Parks has brought in further interventions to help ensure long-term sustainability and preservation to protect the reefs from coral degradation.
From now on, divers must have a minimum certification of Advanced Open Water – an increase from the entry-level Open Water certification, as well as being permitted to do two dives, instead of three, per day. Other restrictions include a maximum of 50 divers per dive site at any one time, with no repeat visits to the same dive site. Each divemaster is only allowed to bring up to four divers each and dive periods are between 7:00 am and 4:30 pm.
I was lucky enough to visit and stay on Sipadan 5 times between 1993 and 2004 when it was closed for accommodation visits. It was a shame the Government’s well intentioned action got off to a bad start when a barge moored there broke free and removed a significant area or coral.