KOTA KINABALU: The state government is in the process of gazetting Mantanani, Mengalum and Sipadan islands as total protected marine areas.
State Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming said the initiative was in line with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recommendation to have at least 10 per cent of protected marine areas by 2020.
“It is difficult to have three marine areas to be gazetted by 2020 as the process will be long.
“However, the state government has already prepared the documents (for the gazettement of those waters),” he said, adding that the gazetting of Mantanani waters would be tabled in the next cabinet meeting.
Pang said the process for Mengalum would be discussed next year and status of Sipadan, renowned as one of the world’s top dive sites, to be discussed in 2019.
Once the three sites are gazetted, marine areas will make up 13 per cent of Sabah, exceeding the IUCN recommendation.
Sabah now has more than one million hectares, or 7.6 per cent, listed as total protected areas.
The Tun Mustapha Park off Kudat waters, Malaysia’s largest marine park, was the most recent gazetted area.
Pang added that his ministry was also encouraging hoteliers and seafood restaurants to sell sustainable seafood to their clients.
He said they could buy from suppliers who adopted good practices, such as fish farming and fishing using the right nettings, among others.
Buying sustainable seafood is not only good for branding but also helps to maintain seafood supply in the long term.
“In Sabah, it has been our priority to market ourselves as an eco-destination and our marine system is one of the best in the world.
“At the (high) rate of arrivals by Chinese, South Korean and other international tourists in Sabah, the situation is putting pressure on our precious resources,” he said, adding that high quality seafood was available at more affordable prices compared to Hong Kong and China.
Meanwhile, Sabah Hotel Association past-president Christopher Chan said they were willing to comply with the ministry’s suggestions, provided the supply met the demand.
“Operators like us will look into the availability of different varieties and sizes of sustainable seafood when buying.
“If suppliers or relevant parties are able to meet our demands, it is not a problem to go with the government’s initiative.”
Sabah Fisheries director Dr Ahemad Sade said since department’s establishment 50 years ago, they had been pushing to have sustainable seafood.
“This is to ensure the fisheries source is sustainable and will
be available for future generations.”