Malaysia: Perhentian’s beauty tar-nished

FIRDAOS FADZIL The Star 12 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: Close to a tonne of sticky, black gobs of tar have been collected from the beaches in Perhentian Besar Island since Friday after they washed up along the shores of the island.

Resort operator Hwang Pei See, who helped clean up the beaches together with her staff and guests, said the appearance of the gobs was now an annual occurrence at this time of the year and she was deeply concerned with the pollution.

“At the moment it doesn’t affect our business but if the condition worsens, the coral reefs will be affected.

“This will affect our business and the country’s tourism image will suffer,” she told The Star yesterday.

“We have been cleaning up for the past four days. The first two days were bad but I’m glad that apart from the volunteers, guests also helped clean up the beach,” she said.

Fuze Ecoteer-Perhentian Commu­nity and Conservation Project mana­ger Ainn Haris said a total of 936kg of tar was manually collected in garbage bags.

“We are expecting to see an oil slick because we were told by boatmen who take divers on diving trips around the island that said they saw patches of oil slick,” Ainn said.

Ainn said every year, oil from the open sea would be washed up on the beaches of Perhentian Besar Island before reaching Perhentian Kecil, which is hidden behind the bigger island.

“The Marine Park Department and the Fishery Department are aware of this issue but they are not doing much since it has been like this for the past few years,” said Ainn.

Volunteer and PhD student Loh Seng Ling said she hoped that this issue would get the attention of the authorities so they could launch investigations.

Last year, The Star reported that clumps of tar balls were found on the shores of Perhentian Island.

Similar tar balls were also found on the beaches of Lang Tengah Island, which is located near Perhentian Island.

The volunteers have to do the cleaning up before the sun rises to avoid having the tar melt into the sand, which would make their job harder.

Considered one of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the world, Pulau Perhentian is home to an abundance of marine life.

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