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Malaysia Dreams Big for Tun Mustapha Park

Malaysia Dreams Big for Tun Mustapha Park

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Sabah Parks officials had great news for audiences at the recent International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress, which took place 12-19 November, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.

Tun Mustapha Park is almost a million hectares of coral reef, mangrove, seagrass, and valuable fishing grounds. (Photo by: Jurgen Freund/WWF Canon)

Tun Mustapha Park is almost a million hectares of coral reef, mangrove, seagrass, and valuable fishing grounds. (Photo by: Jurgen Freund/WWF Canon)

At this global forum on protected areas, held only once every 10 years, Dato’ Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin, Chairman of Sabah Parks, affirmed the country’s commitment to gazette by next year Tun Mustapha Park (TMP), almost a million hectares of coral reef, mangrove, seagrass, and valuable fishing grounds spread out over 50 islands, and home to some 80,000 people from coastal and island communities.

“Once gazetted, Tun Mustapha Park will be evidence of Malaysia’s commitment to the Coral Triangle Initiative,” Chairman Tengku Adlin said. As Malaysia has proven, it is a commitment as grand and all-encompassing as the park itself.

A stall at the fish landing in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia  (Photo by: © USAID CTSP/Tory Read)

A stall at the fish landing in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
(Photo by: © USAID CTSP/Tory Read)

The news is a high point in TMP’s long journey to recognition, which began in 2003, when it was established as a priority marine conservation area by the State Government of Sabah and proposed for gazettement. TMP is set to be the largest marine protected area (MPA) and the first multiple-use marine park in Malaysia, valued for its marine and coastal ecosystems as well the economic value of its abundant resources, and Tengku Adlin emphasized that its management will be a collaborative effort between government and local stakeholders.

Tun Mustapha Park is home to some 80,000 people, many of them making a living from the sea. (Photo from: © CTSP/J. Morgan)

Tun Mustapha Park is home to some 80,000 people, many of them making a living from the sea. (Photo from: © CTSP/J. Morgan)

The sheer size and expanse of TMP underscores how far Malaysia has come in its efforts to protect its waters. In 1977 the 1,740-hectare Turtle Islands Park in Sandakan, an important nesting ground for hawksbill and green turtles, was gazetted. The 4,900-hectare Tunku Abdul Rahman, off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, was gazetted in 1974. Malaysia became a signatory of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion conservation plan, along with Indonesia and the Philippines, in 2004; experts from the region had already singled out the Kudat-Banggi Priority Conservation Area in northern Sabah some years before.

In 2009, the aforementioned three countries joined Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste in what has become known as the Coral Triangle, initiating the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF).

The proposed area is a biodiversity hotbed, home to dolphins, dugong, turtles, crocodiles, and many more charismatic species living in habitats ranging from reefs to mangroves. In 2011, the value of fisheries in TMP was estimated at RM561 million (approximately US$167 million, according to a Valuation Report commissioned by WWF-Malaysia), including the yield from the highly lucrative live reef fish trade. Its very richness, however, has also made TMP vulnerable to habitat degradation, overfishing, commercial fishing, and illegal fishing methods using dynamite and cyanide that have caused much destruction.

(Story courtesy of WWF. Read the full story.)

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