KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia -- In the wake of a construction accident that destroyed part of a reef on Sipadan Island, Malaysian dive operators have issued a statement in support of the Malaysian state’s effort to improve the island’s infrastructure. This statement follows an immense wave of negative publicity created by the destruction of the coral reef adjacent to the island. Rather than getting swept away by the "emotional impact of the moment," the dive operators are calling for cooperation "to ensure a positive future for our natural resources."
Here is the full text of the statement as released on Fins dive blog:
"Many of the dive operators and tourism officials from Sabah are currently at the Thai Travel & Dive Expo, and of course, the recent incident at the Sipadan Dropoff is a matter of great concern. After conferring with their relevant counterparties in Sabah, the dive operators have prepared a message for the global diving community:
The recent grounding of the barge at Sipadan due to inclement weather and a potential error by the contractor has led to an unfortunate situation which saddens us all. As the many divers who have visited us over the years can attest to, all the dive resorts in Sabah are deeply committed to protecting the unique and beautiful environment around us. After all, we earn a living from Sipadan and other world-famous dive sites here, so we have every incentive to protect this one-of-a-kind resource.
For clarity’s sake, to the best of our knowledge, the construction materials on the barge were not intended for a large hotel, as some sources have suggested. Rather, the materials were intended for the construction of improved rest facilities for divers visiting the island during the day, to replace the current temporary facilities. In fact, the construction of permanent facilities represents a major ongoing financial commitment by Sabah Parks and the Sabah Ministry of Tourism to ensure adequate infrastructure to preserve Sipadan’s environment. We are grateful for this support.
Everyone agrees that the accident is tragic, and in hindsight, many will argue that it was preventable. Certainly, these are issues that all of us will struggle with in the coming months, and we’ll all work together with the relevant government parties to ensure a positive future for our natural resources.
However, while it’s easy to get swept away by the emotional impact of the moment, we collectively feel the most constructive course of action at this stage is to concentrate on what we can do for the future. To this end, we are collectively committing to working with local and national government parties, who are currently conducting a damage assessment survey, to devise and implement a program for rebuilding and restoring the affected area as soon as possible. No doubt this will take time, but this is our home, and also our business, so we have the biggest stake in ensuring a positive outcome.
To conclude - if there’s a silver lining in every cloud, then this situation has highlighted to everyone in Sabah and the global dive community how fragile our marine resources are, and it’s reinforced the need for us to work together to keep them safe.
To everyone who’s sent messages of support and concern - thank you very much. And we hope to welcome you back to Sabah again soon."
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