Marine | WWF Malaysia


The coral reefs of the Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion, at the Apex of the Coral Triangle, are among the most biodiverse in the world.
© Eric Madeja/WWF-Malaysia


Malaysia is essentially a maritime country. Spanning more than 19 degrees of longitude, with more than 4600 kilometers of coastline and bordering four major large bodies of water (Straits of Malacca, South China Sea, Sulu Sea, Sulawesi Sea).
Malaysia has more sea area (including the claimed EEZ) than land territory under its control. Malaysians derive more of their protein from fish than any other country in Southeast Asia (World Resources Institute 2006).

Parts of Malaysia’s seas fall within two Global 200 ecoregions (Andaman Sea Ecoregion, Sulu-Sulawesi Sea Ecoregion) and Malaysia is an integral part of the ecological Coral Triangle. With so much sea area, marine conservation and sustainable management of marine resources are important.

Considering that some of Malaysia’s seas lie within one of the most biodiverse regions of the world, marine conservation in Malaysia is globally critical.


WWF-Malaysia has a long history of marine conservation. One of the first WWF-Malaysia projects included surveys of the coral reefs off Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, which eventually led to the 1974 gazettement of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.

Subsequent marine conservation work included surveys and management plans for the Leatherback turtles of Rantau Abang, Terengganu, management plans for marine parks in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and marine mammal surveys in Peninsular Malaysia.

Structure of the Marine Conservation Programme

The marine conservation programme in WWF-Malaysia comprises the Peninsular Malaysia Seas Programme and the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) Programme. Both of these fall within the area of the Coral Triangle Initiative and support the Malaysian Coral Triangle National Plan of Action and the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion Tri-national Conservation Plan. These two priority areas capture more than 50% of Malaysia’s coral reefs and 75% of fish landings.

Primary targets, including biodiversity features such as species, habitats and ecological process, have been decided with a process of internal and external stakeholder consultations, alignment to the SSME, Coral Triangle and WWF Global Programme Frameworks.

The Peninsular Malaysia Seas Programme is based in WWF-Malaysia's Petaling Jaya Office and has projects in Terengganu and Malacca states. The Terengganu projects focus on green turtles and painted terrapins at two sites (Ma’Daerah and Setiu respectively). The Malacca project focuses on hawksbill turtles on several nesting beaches in the state. Both projects analyze turtle nesting trends, bycatch trends, and foraging areas and migratory routes using satellite tagging and on-board fisheries observer programmes. A national level sustainable fisheries programme is focused on changing fisheries policy through a combined approach of direct management agency action, engagement with the private sector and consumer awareness.

The Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion Programme is based in WWF-Malaysia’s Kota Kinabalu Office and has field projects in Kudat-Banggi Priority Conservation Area (PCA) and the Semporna PCA. In both PCAs, WWF-Malaysia works with local communities, local and state government agencies and the private sector to improve management of important and threatened ecosystems and species. A Sabah-wide Live Reef Fish Trade Programme works with fishermen and traders to improve the sustainability of the industry.