KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Yahya Hussin has called for a collaborative effort to address the problems of the marine ecosystem sustainability.
Yahya pointed out that marine and coastal resources industries in the world are reported to represent more than five percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and oceans also provide the so-called ‘non-market’ benefits such as climate regulation, carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation.
All these services will be downgraded or lost if oceans are not in a good state of health, so how can we afford to ignore the oceans? he questioned.
Speaking at the launching of the ‘Annual International Seminar on Marine Science & Aquaculture: Ocean Health & Our Future’ yesterday, Yahya pointed out that since fish landings from the captured fisheries are not increasing to match demand, aquaculture has to develop to supplement fish supply.
“The current level of production which is reported to be more than 63 million tons is not enough to meet human requirements. I know there are challenges in its developments but they have to be addressed.
“If as a result of exchange of experience and knowledge among the delegates, suitable strategies which are also relevant locally happen to emerge, kindly let us know. We would like to take up the matter for follow-up action,” he said in his speech at the seminar organised by the Borneo Marine Research Institute of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).
“We are open to ideas and willing to act on scientific evidences presented to us in a way that policies could be evolved based on sound decisions,” the Agriculture and Food Industry Minister added.
According to Yahya, Malaysia, and Sabah especially, prides itself on having a rich culture where the marine heritage has played a very important role in peoples’ lifestyles and the government will spare no efforts to protect those cultural and traditional interests of its ocean citizens.
“These very resources are facing the threat to their sustainability. I believe if scientists, social scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders come together to address the problems of the marine ecosystem, we can collectively make a difference for the benefit of current and future generations,” he said.
Yahya pointed out that with oceans covering more than 70 per cent of the earth surface and their health linked so closely to human welfare, the ever increasing importance of this vast body of water is understandable.
“As our knowledge of the oceans increased over recent decades, our perceptions have also changed, making us think rationally about limits of acceptable change in the marine ecosystem,” he said, adding that the vastness of oceans and their enormous capacity to absorb impacts does not make them immune to human actions.
This, he said, is evident from the changes in ocean chemistry, most prominently acidification, and decline in biodiversity and fisheries resources.
The ecosystem degradation, Yahya stressed, is not confined to the coastal belt but spreads to remote areas due to water movement and pollutants introduced locally become a global problem in the course of time.
Their biomagnification in marine organisms consumed by humans creates health hazards, he said and added that oceans are a common necessity that needs to be protected by all and for all.
This, opined Yahya, calls for worldwide efforts and despite advancement in fishing technology, the captured fisheries production has not improved beyond the 90 million tons worldwide and many of the commercially important fish stocks have lost sustainability.
Globally, fish have been harvested at a rate far beyond their reproductive capacity of replenishment and this is the most serious challenge to sustainable management of commercial fisheries, he said.
“In addition to direct pressure on seafood resources, habitat degradation, biodiversity loss and effects of climate change are acting simultaneously to threaten sustainability. Besides seafood, the oceans also support the economic sectors such as tourism, shipping and energy.
“They offer opportunities for sourcing pharmaceuticals to treat human diseases and cosmetic products. In fact, the marine bio prospecting is an increasingly important topic for the pharmaceutical industry,” Yahya said.