KOTA KINABALU: WWF-Malaysia applauds the Sabah State Government for establishing Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) off the coast of northern Borneo – protecting almost a million hectares of coral reef, mangrove, seagrass and productive fishing grounds, including more than 50 islands.
TMP gazettement comes after more than 13 years of preparatory work led by Sabah Parks with government agencies, local communities, international partners, and with support from non-governmental organisations including WWF-Malaysia. TMP is a globally significant marine conservation site and WWF-Malaysia is thrilled with this monumental step!
As an important marine area in the Coral Triangle, TMP has immensely rich marine biodiversity with more than 250 species of hard corals and around 360 species of fish, endangered green turtles and dugongs as well as significant primary rainforest, mangroves, and seagrass beds.
However, TMP is threatened by overfishing, destructive fishing and pollution, and the declaration of its gazettement is timely and will allow for a concerted effort to address the pressures to its marine ecosystem.
Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma, said he is deeply gratified by the declaration of TMP and congratulated the Sabah State Government, the Sabah Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment and Sabah Parks for taking the bold steps in the gazettement of TMP, paving and leading the way for the implementation of an innovative marine protected area management in Sabah and Malaysia.
WWF-Malaysia also congratulates the local communities within and around TMP who can now be proud of being part of this initiative.
“I feel proud of WWF-Malaysia’s role, together with other stakeholders, in supporting the Sabah State Government’s journey to gazettement of TMP. In particular, WWF-Malaysia is privileged to have been able to engage and work closely with various local community leaders and groups within TMP in building support for its establishment. Groups such as the Berungus Community, Maliangin Community, the Banggi Youth Club, Kudat Turtle Conservation Society, and the Persatuan Pemilik Kapal Nelayan Kudat (Kudat Fishing Boat Owners Association) have been strong partners in continuing to raise awareness and support for TMP,” he said.
Dr Sharma acknowledged the enormity of the responsibilities that come with the management of an area as large as Tun Mustapha Park. WWF-Malaysia is committed to continue supporting the Sabah State Government in the coming years to operationalise TMP.
WWF-Malaysia looks forward to continue offering technical support to Sabah Parks and working with other agencies, the private sector, local communities and other non-governmental organisations to ensure that a solid management plan is implemented to ensure the sustainable use of resources in the Park, he added.
When WWF recognised the Sabah State Government with the Leaders for a Living Planet award in April 2015, Dr Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International said, “The gazettement of Tun Mustapha Park is a globally significant action that will boost the conservation and biodiversity of this uniquely rich natural environment. It will also do much to ensure the sustainable management of the significant marine resources in the area.”
“Effective management of the Tun Mustapha Park will help ensure the viability of the area’s fisheries resources – and high quality ecotourism can provide hugely increased value, based on this natural treasure. The gazettement of this park should act as a model and an inspiration for marine conservation worldwide,” added Dr Lambertini.
The establishment of TMP heralds a new way of park management in Sabah. It will be an IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature – Category VI Park where sustainable uses are still allowed and local communities living within it are able to continue their activities within designated zones. The productive fishing grounds in the area support more than 80,000 people in coastal and island communities, generating around 100 tonnes of fish catch each day.
Tun Mustapha Park is evidence of Malaysia’s commitment to the Coral Triangle Initiative and contribution towards meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Target of at least 10% marine areas protected and managed.