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."