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KUALA TERENGGANU, Malaysia -- The use of flippers by snorkellers is to be banned at all marine parks in Malaysia.
Resort operators have been given one week to notify their guests of the directive.
The move follows a recommendation from the Fisheries Department that the use of flippers had damaged corals at popular snorkelling sites in the marine parks.
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the lure of the beautiful coral reefs was irresistible and snorkellers often stepped on them when trying to get a closer look.
"It takes years for the corals to grow and just minutes for it to be damaged by the feet of the inexperienced snorkel- lers," he said yesterday.
Idris was worried that the damage to the corals could become more extensive as the number of visitors to the marine parks increased, especially during long holidays.
However, divers will be allowed to use flippers at dive sites identified by resorts and chalet operators.
Idris also said he was waiting for a report from the Kolej Universiti Sains dan Teknologi Malaysia on the design of more durable artificial-reef balls.
The reef balls currently used in the artificial coral reef project were all designed by foreign consultants.