After 13 years of discussion, Malaysia is primed to set aside a massive 1 million hectares (2.47m acres) of protected marine space. The Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) will be composed of stunning (and valuable) seascape that is located just off the northern tip of Sabah province in Borneo, a region containing nearly 360 fish species, 250 hard coral species, vital oceanic habitats as well as many endangered animals such as green turtles.
The space seeks to combat unsustainable fishing practices and pollution which has cumulatively offset the area's natural ecosystem processes. However the Tun Mustapha must balance these environmental requirements with the needs of the local citizens who survive off a thriving fish industry in the region. The protected zone, which encompasses an area known as the Coral Triangle, must cater to both conservation requirements and a growing human population that needs sustenance.
With a forward thinking action plan, the council has created a strategic proposal to satisfy both local and ecological interests. Through a mixed-use approach that includes designated fishing zones, the Park hopes to balance the two needs by managing, rather than banning, fishing operations. Further, the space offers untapped tourism potential, with beautiful white beaches and seascapes offering locations for visitors to participate in eco-tourism.
“The establishment of Tun Mustapha park will boost the conservation and biodiversity of this uniquely rich natural environment,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “The park’s gazettement should act as a model and an inspiration for marine conservation in the Coral Triangle and worldwide.” Officials behind the massive park hope that this will become a replicable model for peacefully managing both people and ecosystems.
Images via Wikimedia Commons and WWF Malaysia