Malaysian police hunting suspects behind 'fish bomb' that killed 3, including tourists

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Sabah waters diving
Waters off Sabah, Malaysia. (Photo: Bernama)

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian police are looking for the fishermen who allegedly used "fish bombs" that are believed to have killed three people in waters off Semporna, Sabah on Friday (Jul 5).

The victims, two Chinese tourists and their Malaysian diving instructor, were found motionless in the water.

"We are searching (for the fishermen). We have also ordered the marine police (to conduct an investigation)," Sabah Police Commissioner Omar Mammah told Bernama.

"The (boat) crew who are currently in the diving area are from small boats. But the problem is, none of them heard the bombs go off (in the area)."

Fish bombing, or blast fishing, is the practice of using explosives to stun or kill fish.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, it is one of the most destructive forms of fishing because it indiscriminately kills any animal in the blast area - from fish eggs and plankton to whales and dolphins - and devastates corals.

Malaysian police believe the three divers were likely killed by the fish bombs.

"There’s a strong possibility that the divers died because of (the fish bomb) explosion, Omar Mammah told the New Straits Times.

“They (the divers) were found motionless in the water, and there were also dead fish. The divers’ diving masks were shattered, and their dive tanks were not functioning."

TWO ARRESTED SO FAR

Two people have been arrested so far - a 24-year-old boatman and a 23-year-old guide.

They reportedly told the police they had dropped off the three victims at the dive site in the afternoon, the Star reported, quoting a source.

Both said they called for help after returning to the dive site and finding sea foam, the report said.

Sabah's police commissioner said police are committed to stopping fish bombing activities in the state waters, but the sea was too vast for the authorities to monitor round the clock. Fishermen also took advantage of this by finding secluded spots or times when patrol boats were not around, he added.

Tourists, however, should not be worried about their safety because it is an isolated case, deputy tourism, arts and culture minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said.

"I have not received a report yet, but it's an isolated case, (so) do not worry. We are confident that the authorities will handle this incident," he said.