Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sarawak's marine ecosystems - Conserving denizens of the deep

SARAWAK boasts some of the most biologically diverse coastal and sea eco-systems in the world.

The largest state in Malaysia, it has a coastline stretching some 1,035km along the northwest coast of Borneo.

Sarawak’s seas and coasts encompass a variety of habitat types, from silt-dominated benthic environments to large areas of coral reefs patches.

These habitats vary from inshore to offshore and from southwest to northeast.

Of these, mangroves, sea grass and coral reefs are the most important marine ecosystems because they provide feeding, breeding and nursery grounds for marine fishes, reptiles, birds, mammals and invertebrates.

Marine life also play their significant ecological roles in the marine ecosystems.

The state’s coasts and seas are also home to whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine flora and fauna but yet, some of the areas are almost entirely unprotected, except for small areas around the national parks.

Aside from that, Sarawak waters are also inhabited by critically endangered painted terrapins and other endangered marine creatures such as the four species of marine turtles, 15 species of marine mammals, sea horses and whale sharks.

Like anywhere else, commercial fishing techniques are wreaking havoc on the state’s delicate and biologically diverse area and its marine inhabitants, and if urgent and drastic actions are not taken immediately, the state will lose this treasure forever.

To protect Sarawak’s seas and coasts, some portions have to be left alone. That’s where marine reserves come into the picture.

A marine reserve is like putting a giant Do Not Disturb sign around an area of the seas and coasts.

These protected areas are very important to the future of our seas and coasts — giving wildlife a safe haven.

Many countries and organisations have been working on marine conservation.

And in an effort to protect some of its endangered marine species, the state government implemented the Wild Life Protection Ordinance in 1998.

The Ordinance stated that all species of marine turtles, marine mammals (whales, dolphins, porpoises and dugongs) and painted terrapins are listed as totally protected animals while corals (soft and hard corals) and other species listed in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) appendices are protected.

The state government is also committed to ensuring that some of its marine biodiversity is maintained in a healthy state, and an important tool for this is marine parks.

To ensure the protection and conservation of marine ecosystems and that no species are ever left behind, Sarawak has implemented a broad programme for marine biodiversity and ecosystem conservation.