Malaysia: Tar balls appear near Tioman diving spot again

ONG HAN SEAN The Star 6 Jul 17;

KUANTAN: Lumps of tar have appeared near Pulau Tioman again, marring a major dive site off the island.

Tioman Dive Association president Zainal Rahman Abd Karim said the oily droplets were spotted during a dive at the Pulau Tulai site on Tuesday morning.

“We did not spot it during an earlier dive but during the 11am session, the divers surfaced right in the middle of the sticky blobs and were covered in oil,” he said.

“The slick also clung to our boat.”

Zainal, who runs the B&J Diving Centre, said it was quite severe. “We will avoid the area on our next dive,” he said.

Reef Check Malaysia programme manager Alvin Chelliah said it was the second time this year that clumps of oil had appeared in Pulau Tioman.

“There was a small amount in the earlier incident and we managed to clean it up. This time, it appears to be worse.

“We do not know where it is coming from and how to overcome it. This can be bad for tourism,” he added.

Similar clumps of oil, he said, also washed up on the shores of Pulau Tioman early last year.

The Department of Environment (DoE), the Marine Park Department as well as the Rompin district council had been informed of the incident, said Alvin.

Pahang DoE director Rosli Zul said investigations revealed that the number of tar balls was small.

He said there were tar balls every year due to hardened crude oil that drifted in from the ocean.

“I have been told by Petronas that these tar balls are always floating around at sea,” Rosli said. “It can be naturally occurring and float according to the ocean currents.”

Authorities, he said, were on the alert and would move in to clean up should the tar balls wash ashore.

“But, for now, it is likely that the tide will take them out to sea again,” he said.