LABUAN: The director general of Marine Park, Dr Sukarno Wagiman, disclosed that the marine park here needs to be turned into a tourism hotspot to boost the local economy.
In his speech during ‘Majlis Ramah Mesra’ programme with heads of government departments and agencies here, he said the marine parks in the peninsular were now successful as tourism products.
“The marine parks in the peninsular are becoming significant tourism centres.
For example, at Payar Island, Kedah, the island is receiving around 200,000 tourists annually.
“The biggest tourist arrivals to the island are from the Middle East countries, China, Korea and Japan. The island does not have any dwellers but they still go there. “My target is to turn the marine park here into an important tourism product just like Payar Island and at other marine parks,” he said.
“Before, the turtles here were not that well known and only after the initiative undertaken by the department with direct funds from Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd for the turtles’ hatcheries, scientific study and others, then the turtles are now getting well known. “About a thousand turtles had been set free to the open sea this year,” he said.
Sukarno commented that Malaysia had joined the biodiversity agreement with the other countries whereby each country must have a marine park for ten percent from their respective waters.
“We are now collaborating with Sabah Parks and agencies in Sarawak in our effort to achieve the ten percent as we are only having one percent of the marine park from our waters in this country.
“The marine park is a sanctuary or breeding spot for various types of marine lives either for commercial or non-commercial purpose,” he said.
The marine park in Labuan comprises Kuraman, Rusukan Besar and Rusukan Kecil islands. Sukarno explained the importance of the coral reefs in correlation with the forests which absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air.
“When the sanctuary (coral reefs) are protected, the fish will breed a lot and finally they will move from the reefs to outside the marine park area.
“But, the problem here is thatthere are cases where fish are caught by fishermen who use the untraditional methods such as cyanide poison and bomb and this is still prevalent in Sabah and here,” he said.
Sukarno disclosed that the latest statistic under the Fishery Act 1985 shows that were 19 cases of arrest and 26 reports were received for the misdemeanours with 13 cases occuring at Kota Kinabalu’s waters and the rest at other districts.
“The marine lives are valuable assets to the country and they need to be managed properly for our future generation. “Our department will continuously cooperate with various parties to protect the marine lives throughout the country,” said Sukarno.
Around 42 marine parks in this country have been gazetted so far.
Also present were Labuan Marine Park Department director Mohd Fazli Long and the village chiefs.