Piecing the Puzzle for Marine Biodiversity
It was recently reported that the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia (DMPM), which is under the Ministry of Water, Land and Natural Resources (KATS) may be moved to be under the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro Based Industries (MOA).
If indeed the home for DMPM is being reviewed, WWF-Malaysia views this as an opportunity to conduct a close review of the various marine biodiversity conservation, management and protection commitments as well as the review of existing legal, policy and institutional frameworks to ensure that the former are adequately addressed under the latter.
To set the scene, it is worth delving a little into the historical context.
The Marine Parks section of the Department of Fisheries Malaysia (DoFM), under MOA – established in 1983, was moved to the then Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) in 2004 and became a Department, the DMPM.
Once the Environment portfolio was transferred out of MNRE, the Ministry was then renamed to KATS. Nevertheless, like MNRE, KATS has jurisdiction over terrestrial parks. MOA in the meantime has remained unchanged.
Fast forward to today – the proposed move of DMPM to DoFM (under MOA) suggests a possible recantation of the initial shift. This further suggests that the lines are not black and white and hence, in seeking to piece this puzzle, it is important to consider the following relating to the Department’s role and envisaged functions: what current and future needs does DMPM seek to address, what is the required enabling legal and institutional framework, and is there a right institutional fit? If not, what changes need to be made?
At a very cursory look, DMPM’s mission is to conserve and manage marine resources in marine parks scientifically for sustainability to contribute to the country's economy. At a functional level, it is observed that marine parks or marine protected areas can serve numerous functions ranging from biodiversity conservation, supporting fisheries or fisheries management, and enhancing climate resilience. As such, marine parks contribute towards food security, nature-based tourism, amongst other important contributors to the local economy and livelihoods.
At present, at least three Ministries; namely MOA, Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), and KATS have independent or overlapping interests in marine parks. This is either by virtue of Ministerial Functions (MOA with respect to the Fisheries Act 1985, MESTECC with respect to the marine environment preservation, under the Exclusive Economic Zone Act 1984), or at institutional objective level (KATS with biodiversity conservation related goals, as the Malaysian focal point to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the main custodian of the National Policy on Biological Diversity 2016-2025). Hence, there does not seem to be a clear host at present and it is crucial that DMPM is not moved about as a chess piece but is instead seen as a crucial piece of a larger puzzle on the governance of marine resources in Malaysia.
As oceans and marine life know no boundaries, more comprehensive and integrated conservation and protection of marine environment, biodiversity and resources is required within and even beyond current marine protected areas.
WWF-Malaysia believes that it is absolutely pertinent to ensure necessary institutional and legal framework is put in place to facilitate effective marine park management and the stewardship of our oceans.
Dr Henry Chan
Conservation Director, WWF-Malaysia
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For more information, please contact:
Senior Communications and Campaigns Officer, Marine Programme, WWF-Malaysia (Sabah office)
Tel: +60 88 262 420, Ext.127