The fishing community in Pulau Mantanani about 40 nautical miles from Kota Belud have been told to stop their destructive habit of fish- bombing. Shell Malaysia Exploration & Production (SM-EP) joined forces with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Fisheries Department Sabah, Malaysian Fisheries Development Board and Kota Belud District Office to conduct the awareness session recently. This engagement marked the third such session in two years as part of an ongoing dialogue with the villagers, who are predominantly fishermen, as this illegal activity poses a huge danger to the Shell offshore facilities near the island as well as corals on the seabed. MMEA’s Regional Commander for Sabah and Labuan, First Admiral Ahmad Puzi AB Kahar urged the villagers to observe the laws whenever they go out to earn their livelihood. Ahmad Puzi was pleased to note that the previous engagements had achieved good results, as there has been a reduction in fish bombing reports in the Mantanani area. He appealed for the cooperation of the villagers to become the eyes and ears of MMEA and the other enforcement agencies in the fight against fish bombing. “Fish bombing is a danger to the oil and gas infrastructure in the area and the workers on these infrastructure. Secondly, it flattens corals on the seabed, destroying the natural habitat of the fishing resources that you and your future generation depend for livelihood,” Ahmad Puzi told the villagers. Shell Malaysia EP’s Head of Security, Mohd Kassim Abdul Kadi, advised villagers to observe their personal safety at sea and to refrain from encroaching into the 500m off-limit restricted zone around the Shell offshore platforms. In practising what it preaches about safety at sea, Shell also donated 50 radar reflectors to the villagers for their fishing boats. These 3’ x 2’ reflectors when fixed on boats, will enable the boats to be spotted even in bad weather, hence making them visible by other mariners, particularly large vessels plying in the area. Mohd Kassim also handed out 300 coloured T-shirts and 50 posters carrying the day’s key messages emblazoned on them. As with many fishing communities, the culture of some 400-odd families in Kampung Pulau Mantanani, is that the youngsters invariably will take over from their fathers to go out and continue the fishing tradition in the family. SM-EP’s Sabah Shell Petroleum Company Limitied Managing Director, George Ling, said the dialogue in part focused on spreading the message among the younger generation in the village. “While we continue to engage with the older folk against fish bombing and the like, this time we also involve the younger generation because they will be the ones who inherit the future from their parents,” Ling added. According to Ling, the future for the younger generation will depend on what’s done presently to conserve the environment around the island — and this means doing away with fish bombing! Ling hoped the fishermen would cooperate in making the sea around Pulau Mantanani free from fish bombing so that there is a sustainable livelihood for the younger generation in the area. He also disclosed that Shell and the enforcement agencies would focus the other nearby fishing communities in the Tuaran district as well as continuing to catch the young with the message. In a concerted effort of reaching out to the young in Pulau Mantanani, Ahmad Puzi followed the Shell focus by donating exercise books and stationery to pupils of SK Pulau Mantanani. “I hope that this small gesture from MMEA will spur on the pupils to do better in their public exam results,” he added. Kota Belud District Officer Mohd Najib Muntok congratulated Shell Malaysia and the other agencies for coming together in organising the dialogue for the benefit of the folk in Kg Pulau Mantanani, an administrative area which falls under his purview. Mohd Najib said the District Office is aware of the issue and is equally concerned. Shell for example has offshore facilities in the area where fish bombing can pose a real danger. “I call on all fishermen to observe the 500m off-limits from any offshore platforms out at sea because you can be charged for encroachment if you continue to defy the ruling,” he urged. Kg Pulau Mantanani headman Albi Alad pledged to assist in keeping a vigil on the issues and spreading the safety and environmental conservation message among his fellow villagers and their young ones.