Amendments proposed to turn Sabah marine parks into shark sanctuaries

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry’s legal department is in the midst of preparing amendments to the Sabah Parks Enactment 1984 in a move to turn all six marine parks in the state into shark sanctuaries.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, said amendments to the enactment would be tabled at the state assembly once the review was finalised.

The marine parks are Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Tun Sakaran Marine Park, Tun Mustapha Park, Pulau Tiga Park, Turtle Islands Park and Sipadan Island Park.

“There are certain requirements to amend certain provisions of the law, which we hope to table in this coming assembly session. We have had some positive achievements in trying to get our sharks fully protected.

“Even the federal authorities are now more engaging in (Sabah’s) request for amendments to the Fisheries Act 1985 that would allow total banning of shark fishing for certain category of species.

“Sabah has a lot of sharks and we are trying to protect all species. This, of course, requires a bit of adjustment to the Fisheries Act so we can harmonise the law relating to the protection of sharks in both federal and state laws,” he said.

Masidi was speaking at a press conference on the Alternative To Shark Fin Soup Exhibition, which will be held on Nov 11 at Imago Mall, here.

Present were Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) president Aderick Chong, Imago acting marketing manager Rustam Ahmad, Go Seafood Sdn Bhd chief executive officer and executive director, Mikhail Razak Harris and Chua Hua Beng.

Masidi said he had held informal discussions with leaders from Kuala Lumpur and noted that they had begun to understand the situation Sabah was facing and pursuing with regards to shark conservation.

“I am also happy to note that the public are now quick to respond when they see photos of slaughtered sharks in the market. This shows Sabahans are now aware of the need to protect marine species.

“Sometimes, this issue crops up and I get a message on Facebook, saying ‘Masidi, where are you?’. Well, I’m still in KK and I’m still the minister but (jokes aside) there is no law that gives authority to the minister to take action against this.

“There is no law to allow us to stop shark fishing. So, I hope the people understand this and if indeed there is a law (banning shark fishing), I will be in the forefront to ensure it does not happen,” he said.

Currently, the Sabah Fisheries Department has listed whale sharks and sawfish (ray species) as protected and threatened under the Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulations 1999 and Fisheries Act 1985.

The department has proposed another four shark and two ray species, which have been listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species 2008, to be categorised as threatened under the Fisheries Act.

The sharks are Sphyrna mokarran (great hammerhead shark), Sphyrna zygaena (smooth hammerhead shark), Eusphyra blochii (winghead shark) and the Carcharhinus longimanus (oceanic whitetip shark). The rays are Manta birostris (oceanic manta) and Manta alfredi (reef manta).

As the diving industry is one of Sabah’s active segments in spurring the state’s economy, Masidi said shark conservation must be emphasised to prevent species extinction such as what has befallen the Sumatran rhinoceros.

“I’m personally happy that SSPA is continuously educating the public. Ensuring total protection (of sharks) lies in our attitude. The laws can only be effective if there is strict enforcement, but our attitude determines whether our sharks survive.”

Meanwhile, Chong said the upcoming Alternative To Shark Fin Soup Exhibition focused on creating awareness and introducing substitutes for the dish to the public.

He said a similar event was organised in 2012 when many restaurants and hotels were still serving shark fin soup.

“However, this time around some (restaurants and hotels) have givenup, or rather struck off their menus, and this year we are stepping up our event with the support of Go Seafood, which produces Royal Empura products.

“The Empura fish is a sustainable resource, prestigious and expensive compared to shark fins. So we have a good alternative this year, together with birds nest.

“We have put up a really good fight against shark fin soup and now we have a ‘contender’. Hopefully, there will be more restaurants participating in the exhibition,” he said.

Source: New Straits Times

‘Tagal’ rivers have tourism potential

RANAU: The tagal system of river and fish conservation practiced in many villages in Sabah can be a tourism product with wide appeals.

One fine example is the tagal on the Melout River, about 28km from here, which is jointly managed by the villages of Bayag, Gaur and Giring-Giring.

The villages and the river had an important visitor recently in the person of Ranau Member of Parliament Datuk Dr Ewon Ebin who commended the villagers for their efforts in conservation, and encouraged them to develop it into a tourism product to share it with outsiders.

(Tagal is operated according to native customs. A village or a cluster of villages may be involved in making a decision on how much of the river should be placed under tagal, how to enforce, how and when the tagal should be opened and who should benefit from the fish harvest.)

Ewon said Melout is located sufficiently far from urban development and maintains a tranquil and unspoilt environment. Combined with the slow flowing river, rich flora and fauna, the river and the surrounding villages are potential tourism attractions,.

“This is not yet on the tourism calendar … but the signs are that more and more are attracted to the beauty of nature as well as the unique tagal system where the people are themselves protecting the river and fish sources,” Ewon said during the opening of a rest chalet by the river recently.

The tagal practice is quite wide spread in Sabah and some, for example in Penampang, have recently used it to attract tourists.

“I believe that in three years’ time this area will become a tourist attraction as the access roads are improved,” said Ewon.

He added that the natural beauty of the villages, the scenic river and the tagal will give rise to homestays and other tourism products.

He urged villagers to consider introducing activities as cast net fishing to attract visitors. Jius Kumin the chairman of the tagal system, said the villagers have been imposing the tagal restrictions for the last three years.

“It’s been good to us … not only have we been able to conserve resources like fish in the river, the surroundings also benefit directly because there is much less intrusion, and the villagers took ownership of what nature provides, and they look after them.”

Jius also said that because of the collective responsibility of upkeeping the tagal, the villagers of the three kampong have grown closer, and they share the same love for the forests surrounding the villages as well.

“We are proud of our tagal, and we want to maintain it so that it becomes as good as the one in Kampung Luanti (which has an international reputation) and out people can not only enjoy the tourism benefits, but also the fish we can harvest whenever the tagal is lifted.” He proposed that the lifting be August next year.

Meanwhile, Ewon approved an application for six rolls of polyurethane pipes for the construction of a gravity water supply system in the area. The running water thus obtained will enable the construction of public toilets.

Ewon pointed to the rapid growth in tourist arrivals from China and Korea in Sabah and that these are potential visitors to villages with the tagal system.

Source: New Sabah Times

RM60 million needed to operate Malaysia’s largest marine park for first five years

KOTA KINABALU: A total of RM60 million is needed to operate the Tun Mustapha Park (TMP), Malaysia’s largest marine park, for its first five years (2017-2021).

WWF-Malaysia, announcing this during a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing with Sabah Parks today, will assist the latter in developing a financial plan which could cover income generation or fundraising strategies, as well as sustainable financing.

The 10-year agreement solidifies the existing cooperation between the non-governmental organisation (NGO) and the conservation-based government body in taking care of the 898,762-hectare TMP.

The TMP, gazetted last year, spans three districts (Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas).

WWF-Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma and Sabah Parks director Dr Jamili Nais signed the MoU, witnessed by State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

Dionysius said WWF-Malaysia is committed to co-funding the TMP management and operation office, the TMP regulations development, sustainable financing mechanism and conservation, led by the state government.

“TMP is a global symbol of how we can collectively commit to protecting the environment while local communities continue to live in a sustainable manner.

“People must understand that the gazetting measure is just the first step in a long journey.

“Right now, there are over 80,000 coastal and island folk living in the area. We don’t know how many there will be in the future but the goal is for them to have better life in a sustainable manner,” he said.

WWF-Malaysia Marine Programme’s People and Biodiversity manager Monique Sumampouw said that 85 per cent of locals surveyed indicated that the gazetting measure had a positive impact.

She said the MoU will focus on the protection and restoration of coral reefs, sea grass and mangroves as well as key species like sea turtles, dugong, sharks and commercially-valuable fish.

Meanwhile, Masidi said the gazetting of such parks require political will. Its impact, she said, may not be seen in the short term but will benefit the people in the future.

“I would like to give an example where a few days ago, a massive cleanup was conducted at the Kudat coastline, where many plastic bottles were collected. Surprisingly, some of the bottles came from other parts of the world, even as far as Saudi Arabia.

“So do not think that what we do in TMP only benefits only Kudat and Sabah; it affects people all over the world.

“We should not opt for shortcuts and short-term benefits but make decisions that allow people to prosper, generation after generation.

“I hope that leaders, wherever they are, will do more of what is right instead of what is popular. I hope what we did will encourage others to follow suit,” said the minister.

He also stressed on the importance of being realistic when it comes to gazetting more marine parks.

“I believe the shortest time frame for the next one (to be gazetted) is maybe ten years. I am saying this to keep expectations within limits. There is a lot of work to be done and there are various technicalities involved,” he said.

Masidi had earlier this month said that the government had identified Mantanani Island off Kota Belud and its surrounding areas as the next potential marine park.

Source : New Straits Times

Mantanani Island may become Sabah’s next marine park, says Masidi

KOTA KINABALU: Mantanani Island, a well-known site for recreational diving off Kota Belud, and its surrounding areas have been identified as Sabah’s next potential marine park.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the state government aims to turn 10 per cent of Sabah’s waters into protected marine areas.

He said the government has identified several potential areas to achieve that goal.

“The United Nations has invited us to gazette at least 10 per cent of our ocean and we have gazetted 7.6 per cent, with the current size of protected marine parks in Sabah at two million hectares.

“I’ve asked my assistant minister (Datuk Pang Yuk Ming) to form a committee to look into the possibility of increasing the size of these marine parks so that we can comply with the 10 per cent requirement.

“We have ample amounts of areas that we can eventually turn into parks and we have identified several. This reflects the good conservation policies that the state government has started and continued to implement.

“We are actually looking at Mantanani and we are seriously considering turning (Mantanani) into a protected marine park,” he told reporters after launching the Maritime Environmental Security Workshop 2017 here, today.

Masidi, however, said this would take some time as the plan depends on the government’s engagement with local residents, district office, and other relevant quarters.

He said the ministry is in the midst of preparing the necessary technical requirements before bringing the proposal to the state government’s attention.

“It’s not something we have to do in a hurry. We have to take into account the current status of Mantanani as an agriculture area but we believe the island is an excellent candidate to be considered as a marine park,” he said.

Last year, the state government gazetted Tun Mustapha Park off Kudat. Spanning approximately 898762.76 hectares, it is Malaysia’s largest marine park.

Sabah’s two other marine parks are Tun Sakaran Marine Park off Semporna and the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park off Kota Kinabalu.

Speaking on the maritime environmental security workshop, Masidi described the conference as important to Sabah.

He also extended his gratitude to the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur for organising and sponsoring the event.

The four-day workshop, which starts today, will see participants made up of ministers, officers, and military personnel from the US and Malaysia, as well as non-governmental organisations presenting talks and ideas related to the subject.

“This workshop reflects the strong partnership between Sabah and the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. I am pleased that the US embassy has acknowledged Sabah’s uniqueness in the field of marine protection.

“I believe participants will make use of this workshop to share views and find ways to protect our marine treasures while getting input on suitable methods to be used in Sabah to allow us to increase our ability to protect marine resources,” said Masidi.

Meanwhile, US Embassy’s environmental officer Todd Hannah said the US was committed to global environment conservation.

She also said the workshop speaks volume of the importance of Malaysia’s relationship with the US.

“That is why we have this sustain this relationship and we will continue to have such relationship with Malaysia on environmental issues.

“One of the most important outcomes of this workshop is to convene like-minded people in the same room to have conversations on the way forward.

“On resources, the US has to make a decision on where to put its money and the fact we are here doing this (workshop) now shows how important our relationship is with South East Asia, including Malaysia.”

Source : New Straits Times

Sabahan gets US conservation award

KOTA KINABALU: A Sabahan wildlife conservationist focused on preserving the highly endangered pangolins has been named a recipient of the Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior Award.

Elisa Panjang, 33, was among five wildlife conservationists from Africa, Asia and South America named for the award.

According to the Houston Zoo website, the award is to honour outstanding conservationists from developing countries instrumental in protecting their local wildlife.

The zoo, the second most visited in the United States with 2.55 million visitors, supports over a dozen conservation projects around the world.

 Elisa, who is the pangolin conservation officer at the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) in Kinabatangan, said she would use the fund from the award to support her training at a rescue centre in Vietnam or any other place.

“The award will definitely raise the profile of the pangolin locally as well as internationally. The zoo recognised the importance of pangolin research in our country. Malaysia should do the same by supporting local researchers,” said Elisa, thanking DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens for nominating her.

“I hope that this international recognition will inspire our youths to get involved in science and conservation issues,” she said.

Dr Goossens said the visit to the rescue centre would enable the Sandakan-born Elisa to learn more about its captive breeding programme.

“I believe that a captive breeding programme of pangolins in Sabah will be one of the solutions to save them from extinction,” he said of the animal, widely known as the most trafficked mammal in the world.

“We don’t have data to show their decline but the reality is that it is almost impossible to survey pangolins in the wild.

“They rarely appear in our camera traps,” said Dr Goossens.

Source : The Star