Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Healthy ecosystem for communities at Tun Mustapha Park

KOTA KINABALU: A few parks in Sabah are already being managed with local communities living within them and maintaining their lifestyles.

The establishment of Tun Mustapha Park will represent a major shift towards conservation and sustainable resource use. The proposed Tun Mustapha Park, located at Kudat-Banggi Priority Conservation Area (PCA), in the northern region of Sabah was proposed as a multiple-use park by the Sabah state government in 2003.

After 10 years of conservation efforts, a symposium will be held today (March 20) to highlight how this marine protected area will be part of the evolution of resource management around the world.

The proposed Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) encompasses around 50 islands including Banggi, the largest island in Malaysia, and boasts a high diversity of ethnic groups from the coastal communities of Bajau, Ubian, Suluk, Kagayan, Balabak and Bajau Laut to the inland communities of Rungus, Bonggi and Dusun among others. Including the communities on the coastal mainland, there are approximately 80,000 people living in and around the proposed park.

The majority of these people rely in part on the park’s marine resources. There is a need for the park to be gazetted because of the area’s high biodiversity, concentration of coral reefs, mangroves and the richness of fisheries in the region. The proposed park’s objectives are to protect habitats and support livelihoods for artisanal and commercial fishers. Once fully gazetted, it will be the second largest marine protected area in South-East Asia.

The concept for the park is to be a multiple use, managed area which includes areas for strict protection, tourism, artisanal fishing and commercial fishing among others. A multi-stakeholder group made up of government agencies led by Sabah Parks, Sabah Fisheries Department, Universiti Malaysia Sabah and the Lands and Surveys Department, NGOs including WWF-Malaysia and the local communities have been working to realise the gazetting of TMP.