Money will be used to protect marine life

JOHOR BARU - Visitors and scuba divers to six islands off Mersing waters in Johor's east coast will have to pay fees to do so from next month.

To be imposed by the Johor National Park Corporation (PTNJ), the money collected from visitors would be used to maintain, protect and conserve the marine life in the areas, state tourism executive councillor Datuk Tee Siew Kiong said.

He said the fees would also help the corporation to finance its programmes, including educational and research related activities to educate the public on taking care of the marine environment.

"We don't think the fees will stop tourists, including foreigners, from visiting our beautiful islands in Mersing," Tee told reporters at the opening of the 13th state assembly seating by Johor's Sultan Ibrahim ibni Sultan Iskandar at Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim here on Thursday.

Tee believed that visitors to Mersing islands would welcome the decision to impose the visiting fees as most of them were nature lovers and were concerned about protecting the marine environment.

He said the numbers of scuba divers would be limited to 100 divers on one island at any one time, while there were no restriction on those planning to stay at 20 holiday chalets on the six islands.

"Last year, we received about 260,700 visitors to the six islands and as of July this year, about 157,096 have visited them," said Tee.

He also said the Mersing Marine National Park made up off Pulau Aur, Pulau Besar, Pulau Pemanggil, Pulau Rawa, Pulau Tinggi and Pulau Sibu would be known as Sultan Iskandar Marine Park.

Malaysians aged 18 years and above will be charged RM5 (S$1.94) to visit the islands and foreigners RM10, while Malaysian students below 18 years old have to pay RM3. The scuba diving fee is RM200 per person from 7am to 5.30pm daily.

Meanwhile, the corporation's director, Suhairi Hashim, said plans were in the pipeline to limit the number of visitors to the Endau-Rompin National Park.