Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tun Mustapha Park gazette delay a ‘great loss’

KOTA KINABALU: Ten years ago, Dr Elizabeth Wood conducted surveys at Pulau Banggi, off Kudat and reported that the area was thriving with fish.

Yesterday, participants of the Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) Mini Symposium at the 1Borneo Grand Ballroom near here yesterday were told a different story.

Coral reef researcher Dr Maria Beger said in her presentation entitled ‘the Health of Reefs and Fish Biodiversity of the Proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Park’ that her group had researched several sites around Pulau Banggi and found that the diversity of fish there was alarmingly low.

Inspections conducted by Beger’s group on other dive sites found between 200 and 250 species per dive in Palawan Island while at Pulau Banggi, the highest number was only 134 species per dive.

“There wasn’t much there…there was hardly any sharks, garoupa or butterfly fishes,” she said.

A lecturer from the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Borneo Marine Research Institute, Zarinah Waheed, concurred with the findings, saying her team had also found very few fish during their survey which was carried out last year.

She also said that her team had covered most of the island, except in the western parts as the effort was hampered by typhoon.

According to UMS School of Business and Economics lecturer Dr James Alin, not gazetting the Tun Mustapha Park years ago has been a great loss to Sabah not just financially but also in terms of loss of corals and marine species within the affected region.

“It has been ten years (since the proposal to make the area a park) and it still hasn’t been realised. We can only calculate our losses by calculating how much it would cost us to restore the region to its former conditions,” Alin reporters after listening to the five papers presented during the morning session of the Tun Mustapha Park mini symposium, which painted a bleak picture on marine species diversity at Pulau Banggi.

He added that gazetting the area into a park would benefit not only the environment but also the people who depend on fishing for a living.

The State Government, through a State Cabinet decision, approved the proposal to gazette the Tun Mustapha Park in 2003.

The objectives of the establishment of the proposed TMP are to protect and enhance biodiversity of terrestrial and marine environment of the area, to exploit the marine and terrestrial resources of the area in an ecologically sustainable manner and to alleviate the socio-economic condition of the local people particularly the hard-core poor of the area, through ecologically sustainable economic development.