BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ANN) - Poni Divers recently kicked off its first underwater cleanup at North Pelong, in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee Celebration of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s accession to the Throne.
Twenty-four divers, three snorkellers and three boat staff - comprising officers and staff from Brunei Tourism, the Department of Fisheries, the Poni Dive Club and Poni Divers - participated in the cleanup to mark World Sustainability Day as well as World Tourism Day, which coincides with the sustainability theme for 2017, while tying in with the recent launching of the Brunei Tourism Diving Packages.
The event began with a safety briefing led by Wong Thye Sing, the Managing Director of Poni Divers, who explained that the underwater cleanup initiative was inspired by a recent free-diving trip to Pelong, where a ghost net was discovered.
The participants removed several ghost nets weighing 34 kilogrammes.
Ghost nets are defined as those discarded and dumped in the ocean after fishing, which continue to trap and kill marine life as well as damage underwater habitats and coral reefs. Globally, tonnes of non-biodegradable nets and lines get lost each year and continue to ‘ghost fish’ for years, accounting for 10 per cent of the world’s marine litter.
The divers worked in teams of twos and threes after being briefed by Wong on the correct method to remove and cut away the nets without damaging the corals and marine life.
Present as the guest of honour at the closing ceremony at the Poni Divers premises on Serasa Beach was Wardi bin Haji Mohammad Ali, the Deputy Permanent Secretary (Tourism) at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism.
Poni Divers is initiating a nationwide outreach programme to increase awareness of marine conservation through visits to schools, workshops, presentations, and various projects that highlight the issues and threats that face our oceans.
The diving centre also plans to launch a Coral Propagation Programme along with several other initiatives to promote a more socially and environmentally responsible mindset among the younger generation.
“Poni Divers is looking to put marine conservation at the forefront of our business, as we expand our operations. We plan to introduce sustainable fishing practises to local fisherman and educate the public about the importance of marine conservation, and implement changes with real results,” said Wong.
He added that one of the key factors for a successful programme is to engage and involve local stakeholders at the grassroots level, “because it brings together a whole range of stakeholders, and because it is solution-based, to protect Brunei’s environment, whether on land or in water.”