Malaysia creates large MPA in Sabah

by Alan Yeung  2016-06-04

Sabah announces a ‘huge’ marine protected area and shark sanctuary with over 1 million hectares covering the peninsula and 50 islands.  It is named Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) after the first official, and will officially be the biggest marine park and second largest coral reef reserve in Malaysia.

The outcome culminates over ten years of government, scientific, community, and nonprofit organization efforts.  The area is worth protecting because of its richness in biodiversity and its impact on local fisheries.

In a 2012 baseline study, Waheed et al. reported 49% of the hard coral cover in TMP, mostly fringing and patch reefs, are in good to excellent condition. Yet, only 7% of the surveyed reefs had 75% or more coverage. There is evidence of blast and poison fishing, but the damages, such as rubble fragments, appear to be old.  Overfishing also seems to be an issue as turtles, sharks and other high-value reef species are missing.

As a result of the implementation of marine reserve and shark sanctuary, scientists believe the lightly-damaged portions of the coral reefs at TMP may come back in a few short years, while other more severely damaged areas may take longer to recover.  According to WWF:

“The TMP will help protect and restore the marine habitats and fisheries around the southern Balabac Straits and vicinity. The establishment and functioning of the marine park will be a major milestone…”

So, the challenge now is to make it work and make it happen.