MALAYSIA - More effort is needed to create greater awareness of marine conservation and pollution.
Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) officer Rashid Saburi said people were harming not only themselves, but also the environment and marine life by littering.
"People are still treating the ocean like a giant rubbish bin and they may not realise that whatever they throw into rivers, seas and beaches will end up on their dinner plates."
He was speaking during a beach and underwater clean-up, organised by Project Aware at Billean and Tegaipil Islands, at the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (Simca), near here, on Sunday.
In the clean-up, over half a tonne of debris were collected by 35 participants from Reef Guardian, Danau Girang Field Centre, SWD, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Lankayan Island Dive Resort.
Spearheaded by Reef Garden, a non-profit research outfit based at Simca, the programme was aimed at creating awareness and turning it into action.
Among items cleared from the beach and seabed were plastic drinking bottles, polystyrene lunch boxes, fishing nets, ropes, cigarette butts, slippers and glass bottles.
Reef Guardian event manager Radzi Abduk Kadir said: "The public is aware that our environment is degrading. However, only a few of them are taking action to prevent and preserve it."
Danau Girang researcher Dr Milena Salgado-Lynn said the carcass of a rare male adult Hawksbill turtle was also recovered, entangled in a fishing net.
"It was sad. The turtle may have been caught in the net after it was discarded from a boat. The turtle appeared to have drowned," Dr Milena said.