|Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah, located on the northernmost part of the island of Borneo – the 3rd largest island in the world, and largest in all of Asia. Surrounded by stunning marine life, Sabah is an idyllic paradise above and below the ocean. Yet, like many locations in need of constant protection from marine debris.
‘Ghost Nets’ are one of the most challenging examples of marine debris to remove, and they also cause the most devastating effects against the local marine environment. Factors that contribute to these nets being illegally dumped into the sea are numerous. Local fishing communities are finding it increasingly difficult to continue their livelihood due to the global issue of overfishing and the intense competition from the massive aquaculture industry. Without the proper regulations to fishing methods, techniques, or the control of total allowable catches, the issue will escalate, and the active fishing community consists of a population of approximately 22,000!
Throughout Sabah, are designated marine parks that are given every effort to preserve and protect their parameters, such as the Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) marine park where Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures, a PADI 5 STAR IDC Centre is based. But this doesn’t stop illegal fishermen from using nets over delicate reef which regularly become snagged & ‘Ghost Nets’ drifting from elsewhere (from as far as the northern hemisphere!) due to major ocean currents. Visitors as well as residents of Kota Kinabalu (a buzzing port and major developing city centre) contribute to marine tourism through various ecotourist attractions, where there is effort to educate the public on the threats to the natural environment.
Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures (affectionately known as Dive Downbelow) are an excellent example of how having a conservation and educationally committed company based within marine parks gives tremendous support to government authorities & the health of marine parks. Since 2007 Dive Downbelow have removed approximately 150+ large and extremely destructive Ghost nets from TARP that would otherwise have destroyed vast areas of the reef and killed thousands of marine animals. Plus cleared 50,000+ Kg of recorded debris by way of beach & underwater clean-ups. The Department of Fisheries Sabah who control the fisheries and aquaculture industry in the state have created several programs to address the issues that lead to ‘ghost nets’, such as the modernisation and improvement of village facilities for fishermen, schemes to improve the aquaculture sector with eco-friendly and sustainable practices for development, and public education and environmental awareness. Overall the contribution from companies such as Dive Downbelow and the on-going commitments from governments gives the reef a fighting chance.
Downbelows Mission & Goals:
Future Plans Lots of group travel from all over the world, to experience a tailored program addressing unique education on marine biodiversity and conservation.