KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia -- An increasing number of divers are going to the environmentally sensitive diving haven of Pulau Sipadan, off the east coast of Sabah, illegally.
The permitted number of divers per day is 120, but dive operators have been taking as many 200 divers daily.
This has led to friction between dive operators and Sabah Parks officials, resulting in divers being evicted for entering the area without proper permit, according to a recent consultant's report.
In January, the daily average of divers to the island was 141 and the number rose to 159 in February.
It went up to an average of 219 a day in March, 235 in April and 201 in May.
The state government was trying to put a stop to divers entering Sipadan without permits, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said after attending the 4th Sabah - Sarawak Environmental Convention 2006 here on Tuesday.
He said Sabah parks authirites took over the issuing of permits in April. Previously the permits were issued by the National Security Division, which was part of the joint federal-state management committee supervising Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Ligitan.
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