Fifteen-year-old Ravyna Jassani from Selangor recently came to Sabah as part of the Special Pangaea Borneo Project led by famed world explorer, Mike Horn.
The project is a learning expedition by Pangaea, an organisation created by Mike.
She said the trip was to learn about the marine biodiversity of Borneo as well as the environmental issues it is currently facing.
But she wasn’t prepared for the realities and horror of fish bombing – she and her friends were almost hurt by the underwater explosive.
“We set sail to Semporna after doing some diving and snorkelling around one of the beautiful islands on eastern Sabah.
“And as we were passing by scenic views and a wonderful sunset, we saw a small fishing boat about 50m or 100m away.
“Most of the fishermen we passed by acted quite friendly.
They waved towards us and showed us what they had caught.
“But the fishermen we saw seemed quite dodgy.
It is as if they were hiding something,” she said.
Ravyna said as they continued to monitor the fishermen, wondering what their motive was, one of the men, took something from the boat and casually threw it in the water.
“We all knew what would happen next. Our worst fears were coming true.
It was a fish bomb! We all couldn’t believe what had just happened.
“A bomb had just gone off 50 or 100m away from our boat.
What if someone was diving or snorkelling out there?” she said.
Because the boat was a small non-registered vessel, she said it was impossible to lodge a report with the authorities.
Naturally, she said they were enraged, but all they could do was stare helplessly in despair as dead fish rose to the surface of the water.
It was a not a sight that anyone with a clear conscience on marine protection and conservation would want to see, she said.
The fishermen, she said, quickly fled the area after two of the crew members on board her boat, decided to give chase.
Ravyna said the project participants discovered that there were a lot of issues facing the coral reefs and marine life in Sabah or Borneo for that reason.
Earlier that day, she said they snorkelled around one of the islands and heard a loud ‘boom!’
It was definitely a fish bomb being detonated underwater and not too far from where they were, she said.
Dynamite fishing not only affects the fish in the area, but the coral reefs as well, she said because these reefs play a very important part in the marine ecosystem.
“It is the habitat and food source for thousands of different species of marine life.
“The coral reefs also act as natural barriers against wave surges and erosion of land,” she said.
Coral reefs, she said, provide medicinal benefits and act as nurseries for thousands of species and fish, providing food for people who depend on subsistence fishing.
Millions of people visit it every year to snorkel and dive around it, making it a very important and integral part of the marine eco-system for the fishing and tourism industries alike, she said.
Therefore, she said it is very important to conserve and protect the coral reefs because it takes a very long time to grow.
With uncontrolled fish bombing cum rising sea temperatures, she said many coral reef areas are already being negatively affected.
Apart from the coral reefs, larger marine animals such as sharks and dolphins despite their habitats being located kilometres away are also affected by fish bombing because sound travels much faster in water, she said.
These marine animals, she said, have a much more sensitive hearing compared to humans.
She said they depend a lot on their sense of hearing compared to their sense of sight and thus whenever a bomb goes off underwater, it can disorientate them causing some to die or relocate.