KUDAT (Sept 7, 2012): A team of scientists and researchers has began a three-week expedition on the 1.02 million hectares Tun Mustapha Park to gather marine scientific data for the gazettement of the park.
The data would be useful for the consultation process and final decision on the park’s gazettement, said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Maximus Johnity Ongkili, adding that this is particularly in identifying the boundaries which depended on resource mapping and identification of sensitive biodiversity breeding spots, among others.
“The marine park is ecologically more diverse than Australia’s famed Great Barrier Reef or the Caribbean, but has yet to be gazetted despite its establishment being announced way back in 2003.
“The expedition is crucial as scientific marine data is lacking to support the park’s gazettement. It would also enable immediate conservation efforts and sustainable development of the marine resources to take place,” said Dr Ongkili who launched the expedition on 6 Sept 2012 onboard an expedition boat on the Marudu Bay.
The expedition is led by UMS’ researcher Muhammad Ali Syed Hussein with participants from Universiti Malaya, Sabah Parks, WWF Malaysia, the Netherlands and Australia. It is supported by the National Oceanography Directorate, Sabah Fisheries, Felcra Berhad and the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency and will end Sept. 26.
As a signatory to the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, Malaysia has developed a National Plan of Action to protect its portion of the CT area. Tun Mustapha Park is one of Malaysia’s CTI Priority Conservation Areas.
Dr Ongkili said the expedition would assess aspects of marine biodiversity and ecology, as well as the socio-economic benefits of the marine ecosystems to the local communities.
“The effort to develop and manage Tun Mustapha Park is also in line with the government’s transformation programmes to uplift the quality of life of the coastal communities while ensuring sustainability.
“People are often looked as targets of development but they are actually also partners in conservation and resource management efforts,” he said.
The proposed TMP area has more than 50 islands and islets located in the Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu districts. Its unique biodiversity supports a series of complex and linked habitats and is home to endangered marine animals, such as green sea turtles and dugongs.
It is also home to Sabah’s third largest volume of fishery products from coral reefs, bays and open waters, and source of livelihood to 80,000 coastal inhabitants, with great potential for eco-tourism.
On Friday (Sept 7), Dr Ongkili also chaired a dialogue session on sustainable financing for the implementation of CTI programmes and activities with various development partners. They comprise WWF Malaysia, US CTI Programme Integrator, Coral Triangle Support Partnership, Environment Australia and Asian Development Bank.
Dr Ongkili, who is chair of the CTI Council of Ministers, said the dialogue session hopes to generate resources for the sustainable financing of CTI lead programmes.
Under the Ninth and Tenth Malaysia Plan, MOSTI through its Science Fund has funded a total of 14 research projects on the Marudu Bay area with total funding of RM3.56million.
Aside from this, MOSTI also disbursed RM3million under its TechnoFund for a local company to produce high premium sea cucumber (Holothuria Scabra) through induced spawning. The project which began in 2009 is expected to complete end of 2012.
He also said the Sabah Coordination Committee (SCC) for the CTI programmes and activities set up this year recommended seven community projects which have been approved by the CTI National Coordination Committee with RM990,000 fund from MOSTI. Malaysia will host the upcoming 8th CTI Senior Official’s Meeting and 4th Ministerial Meeting in November.