Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion Programme

Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion Programme

The SSME programme focuses activities on two priority conservation areas, Kudat-Banggi and Semporna, and the live reef fish trade.  Within these PCAs, habitat targets include Malaysia’s two largest concentrations of coral reefs and seagrasses as well as extensive mangrove forests.  These programmes focus on strengthening management of natural resources by all stakeholders including local communities, the private sector and government agencies.  The fisheries that the areas support and the local communities who depend upon them shape our strategies.  In Semporna a well developed tourism industry is a major stakeholder and this is becoming a bigger concern in Kudat but is still in preliminary phases as tourism develops in the area.

The coastal and marine ecosystems in Sabah, Malaysia, bordering the Sulu and Sulawesi Seas are clearly within the bio-diverse Coral Triangle. Despite most biodiversity assessments being primarily qualitative in this region, the diversity and locations of species groups (fishes, mangrove plants, sea-grass), and of habitats such as mangrove forests, sea-grass beds, and coral reefs are apparent.  A recent rapid ecological survey in Semporna found extremely high richness of some coral families along with fish, commensal shrimps and other invertebrates (Hoeksema et al, in prep). Large tracts of mangrove forests, sea-grass beds, and coral reefs are in good to pristine condition although these ecosystems are threatened by destructive fishing, over-fishing, coastal development (Ho and Kassem 2009). Furthermore, human migration and complex socio-economic factors pertaining to the development of Sabah contribute to ecosystem degradation (Baikan 2000; Cola 2000).

A strong emphasis in both Priority Conservation Areas is on engagement with local communities and building their capacity to engage in natural resource management.  Participation in enforcement, livelihoods that support conservation, and capacity to interact with resource managers are all programmes that assist local communities and work towards WWF goals.  In both PCAs WWF also engages with local government and state management agencies, including local District Offices, Municipal Councils, the Department of Fisheries Sabah and Sabah Parks, among others.  There is also a growing interaction with private sector actors at both sites.  In Semporna the emphasis is on the lucrative and large SCUBA diving tourism sector.  In Kudat the current emphasis lies with commercial fishermen and aquaculturists

SSME Programme

 / ©: WWF-Malaysia\Mazidi Ghani

The Tun Mustapha Park Expedition

 / ©: WWF-Malaysia/Eric Madeja