Tourists And Dive Resort Criticised On Social Media For Harassing Marine Life In Semporna
A series of photos posted on Facebook has triggered no small amount of public outrage, especially among the diving community.
The reason? Guests and a staff member of a dive resort in Semporna, Sabah were seen holding and petting several marine creatures... which should not have been removed from the sea in the first place!
The group were aboard a boat belonging to Singamata Adventures and Reef Resort, as identified from a logo painted on the vessel. The resort is an authorised 5-Star Instructor Development Dive Resort with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).
Founded in 1966, PADI is the world's largest recreational diving membership and diver training organisation.
It's one thing to remove them from the ocean (which is already an irresponsible act in its own), one of the photos even showed some fishes being kept in a container!
The photos, which first surfaced on 5 July, have been shared far and wide on social media, especially among the diving community. Many lambasted the irresponsible behaviour of both the resort guide and his guests, saying that it is the guide's duty to educate his guests on respect the ocean and its inhabitants.
The matter also caught the attention of Paul Watson, a Canadian environmental activist and founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation society. Watson fired off a warning to Singamata in regards to the photos and urged divers to stay away from the "irresponsible" resort.
Watson wrote, "To Singamata Adventures and Reef Resorts.
The attached pictures have been brought to our attention. There is no excuse for illegally handling marine wildlife for the amusement of your guests. This is irresponsible and extremely unprofessional for a PADI authorized Dive Resort.
We will bring this issue to the attention of Project Aware and PADI.
And we would request that you issue a policy statement to your instructors and boat operators to refrain from allowing customers to harass and abuse marine wildlife. Such unethical activities are an insult PADI and to the international diving community.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will issue an advisory to the diving community to be aware that Singamata Adventures and Reef Resorts is an irresponsible company and does not adhere to marine conservation ethics."
Watson's post has been shared close to 10,000 times as of press time.
Many lodged complaints with PADI, requesting for the international organisation to look into the matter. According to a recent response, Singamata's membership has been suspended as PADI initiates an inquiry and investigation into the matter.
Meanwhile, the resort - which has no doubt received a lot of flak since the photos went viral - have posted a statement on its Facebook page to apologise and express their regret over the incident. They further explained that the "single occurrence of misconduct" happened in March 2015 and that staff member involved no longer works with the company.
This is where we remind everyone to be a responsible traveller and respect marine life. After all, we do not want Nemo to be separated from his dad again, do we?