Over April and May 2018, we’ve seen a massive increase in the number of discarded fishing nets within the Marine Park. These nets have a devastating impact on the marine environment. Not only do they entangle and ultimately lead to the drowning of numerous marine animals, but they also damage the fragile corals.
The problem has become so acute that Sabah Parks, the conservation-based body entrusted with maintaining the Park, has become overwhelmed. In response to the problem, Borneo Dream has supplied divers and equipment to help Sabah Parks remove and recover these ‘killer nets’ from the park’s reefs.
Together with other volunteers from the dive industry here in Kota Kinabalu, we’ve been actively and physically cutting the nets free, bringing them to the surface, documenting them and disposing of them. To date, more than 300 metres of netting has been removed.
Killer nets | Ghost fishing net removal
The job of recovering netting is lengthy. First, the nets have to be located and marked. Then volunteer commercial and recreational divers descend in pairs to find each end of the net recovered. They attach ‘lift bags’ which are partially inflated to gently raise the net ends off of the coral, without damaging it. The divers then work along the net line, cutting it away from the coral as they go. They attach further lift bags as they move along, eventually floating the whole net away from the bottom.
However, it’s hard work, and each diver spends approximately 1 hour cutting per dive. Typically 10- 12 divers will ‘work’ a net simultaneously, with some of the nets measuring over 100 metres in length. Borneo Dream divers have all volunteered to be part of the recovery program and have been some of the most effective net cutters.
Join forces | Clear killer nets
Thankfully, the rise in interest has created a great deal of awareness, and more agencies are now getting involved. As well as most of the dive companies in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Maritim (the Marine Police) and RMN (the Royal Malaysian Navy) are also working alongside Sabah Parks to help eradicate this problem. The Malaysian Fisheries department has also been actively involved, and several meetings are planned to discuss the future of the Park. Also, we’ve enlisted the help and support of Dr Nick Pilcher from the Marine Research Foundation. His knowledge and expertise are of great benefit to the program.
At Borneo Dream, we’re committed to preserving this beautiful Park, and we have much more work to do. The net clearing continues, and we’re exploring working collaboratively with several University groups, to plan the planting of new coral.