Sipadan, Malaysia's only oceanic island, is a unique marine life hotspot once identified by Jacques Cousteau as one of the best dive sites in the world.
It's famous for its population of green turtles, white-tip reef sharks and visiting megafauna. Divers stay on nearby Mabul Island, which is also home of Bajau fishermen living in their traditional palm thatched houses.
In February, divers hoping to see manta ray cleaning stations were doubly disappointed to return from Sipadan to Mabul Island to witness the shocking sight of two mantas, 13 mobulae and a shark being butchered in the shallows by six local fishermen right next to Big John Scuba's dive lodge.
Horrified tourists took pictures of the fishermen cutting off the rays' pectoral fins and uploaded them to social media. What promised to be the experience of a lifetime instead turned into a mass slaughter horror show.
Sabah Shark Protection Association head, Aderick Chong said, "A dead manta ray can fetch some hundreds of ringgit, but a live manta ray can make us much more, not just in terms of money but also marine biodiversity. . . .There is a need to come up with creative ways to provide alternative livelihoods among the fishing community in the Semporna region, and to make it understood that endangered marine animals are more valuable alive than dead."
If you want to contribute toward the conservation of these magnificent animals, a number of charities including wildaid.org, marinemegafaunafoundation.org and www.sabahsharkprotetion target manta fishing.