Barge Wipes Out Sipadan Reef, CDNN, 05/16/06
By Evan T. Allard
Source: Cyber Diver News Network
SIPADAN, MALAYSIA - A coral reef off Sipadan has all but disappeared after a steel construction barge broke loose from its mooring in gale force winds and ran aground on the island.
According to divers who surveyed the damaged reef, the barge completely wiped out delicate corals between the pier and a popular Sipadan dive site called Barracuda Point.
The barge was loaded with building materials and machinery including a crane and bulldozer prompting questions about major construction on a small island that is supposed to be a fully protected marine reserve.
Once renowned as a pristine ecological gem of marine biodiversity in the Sulu Sea, Sipadan was nearly destroyed during the 1990s as the dive industry rushed in to exploit the tiny island as a major dive tourist destination.
Too many dive shops, too many resorts and too many divers pushed Sipadan to the brink of environmental collapse as sewage seeped into the island's ground water, garbage piled up everywhere and surrounding reefs turned to rubble under the impact of thousands and thousands of scuba diving tourists.
Finally, in late 2004, authorities stepped in and evicted all Sipadan dive shop and resort owners who fought unsuccessfully to reverse the government eviction order and block efforts to protect the island from further damage.