IPOH, April 1 — The cluster of islands known as Pulau Sembilan that had been due for reopening last December may stay indefinitely closed after Perak authorities found tour operators and tourists to be trespassing there.
Perak State Park Corporation (PSPC) general manager Mohd Shah Redza Hussein said tour operators continued bringing over hundreds of tourists to the islands that are officially closed for preservation works.
“There are still tourists who go snorkelling and scoop the phytoplankton to throw at each other in fun, but in actual fact, they are doing an irresponsible act of harming the population,” he told Malay Mail.
“Occasionally, they also try and harvest sea cucumber when the rangers are not around,” he added.
The cluster was closed in April 2017 after authorities saw the damage that tourist crowds were causing to the local flora and fauna.
In June last year, Perak Tourism, Culture and Arts committee chairman Tan Kar Hing told Malay Mail the islands, famous for their marine life including rare plankton that emits a blue glow in the dark along its shorelines, could be reopened by the end of 2018.
However, Mohd Shah said the target to reopen the island was not met as the PSPC decided that more time was needed to protect the island after recent intrusions resulted in fresh damage.
He also said the priority now was to preserve the island cluster rather than tourism.
“This is because the grouping of the islands has the last few populations of good living reef and coral ecosystems in the Straits of Malacca and they are the critical breeding areas for our local fish and other marine population.
“If this ecosystem is destroyed it will seriously affect the marine species population, especially in Perak, including fish stock for our fisherman and the fishing industry,” he said
Mohd Shah said the PSPC has set up a committee to study the different ecological sites at the islands and draw up a management plan for their conservation.
These are expected to be ready in July, after which a review of the closure will be presented to the state government and Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah.