The Bomb Listener / Tracking Asia’s Fish Bomber

The Malaysians and the British are building a bomb blast detection system that can detect illegal fish bombing. Codename Decimus, this is the world’s first attempt at an automated real-time remote system.


Humans have been in conflict with the marine environment for generations. It is no different in Malaysia’s Tun Sakaran Marine Park, off the eastern coast of Semporna, Sabah. Its coral reefs are at risk from a devastating crime wave – destructive fishing using homemade bombs. Although illegal, fish bombing is widely practiced around the Pacific and East Africa. Century-old coral reefs, home to fish and other marine life are reduced to rubble in seconds. Fish bombings happen without warning and often when no one is around. Some days there are none, others two or three together. There is no set pattern. Even if park rangers were to act, they have no idea where the crime is taking place due to how vast the marine sanctuary is. Catching the culprits has proven almost impossible….

But there is strong hope. An international team is out to turn wildlife tracking technology into a ground-breaking bomb detection system that will pinpoint the exact location of the crime as it is unfolding.

We follow Malaysian field officer Jamie Valiant Ng and Sabah Parks enforcement ranger Abdul Hafiz Matlah as they try to outsmart the fish bombers with the help of British marine biologist Dr Elizabeth Wood from the Marine Conservation Society UK and passive acoustic monitoring system specialists at the University of St Andrews, Scotland to tackle a problem that has run rampant for over half a century. Will the bomb listener be the ultimate tool to catch the fish bombers in the act?

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