While most marine preservation campaigns choose to showcase horrid, gut-wrenching images illustrating human impact, avid diver and underwater photographer Clement Lee opts to do the opposite. Through his collected photography, shot in various locations, the Malaysian shows the endangered underwater world along with its majestic inhabitants.
“Diving is my passion,” he told Elite+. “It is simply unique to watch those under the surface coexist harmoniously and see that there is an ecosystem there. My mission is always trying to bring as many people to dive and appreciate what we can see in the water.”
A pioneer in introducing full PADI certification courses in Malaysia and dive resort management on Sipadan Island, Clement has always been actively engaged in the preservation of marine life.
“When we started Borneo Divers in 1983, there was no diving tourism,” he said. “Today there are some 75,000 tourist divers coming to Sabah, generating some 450 million ringgit. To protect and conserve the environment we preach the policy ‘less is more’, as diving is certainly not for mass tourism.”
Seeing the grave impact dive tourism has had on nature, Clement immediately agreed to vacate Sipadan at the government’s request in 2004, without any compensation for his business.
“It was a painful and costly decision, but we never regretted it for a moment. In diving business, we derive revenue from the ocean and it’s only fair we give back to the ocean as much as we can. Our decision was solely to protect the marine environment.”
At 66, Clement is now retired, but his role as a marine activist is far from over. As Malaysia’s first dive ambassador and an inductee of of the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame, Clement travels the world to give talks to promote diving in Malaysia and the preservation of marine life.