Launch of Kahumbu marks increase in marine conservation efforts in Semporna
Dr. Rahimatsah Amat, Chief Technical Officer of WWF-Malaysia’s Borneo Programme, described the Semporna Coral Reefs Project, which is on managing coral reefs with fisheries and tourism. The vision of this project is for these globally important coral reefs and its adjacent marine ecosystems such as seagrass beds and mangrove forests, to remain healthy and be managed in a sustainable way to protect biodiversity.
According to him, marine conservation through smart partnerships is crucial, as differing key roles are played by individual entities, including the Department of Fisheries, Sabah Parks, District Office of Semporna, commercial and traditional fishers, and, tourism players such as dive and resort operators.
Encik Bianus, during his speech, said "Semporna was identified as a Tourism and Marine Industry Zone in the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) blueprint. Tourism is an important feature in Semporna and will continue to be a backbone for the area, with focus given to increase the attraction of this area among both local and international tourists."
He continued by stating that concern towards environmental, cultural and economic impacts on travel and tourism is on the rise. These concerns must be addressed in line with the knowledge that economic activities such as tourism, reef fisheries and aquaculture can continue to provide livelihood and income for many people and sectors of society.
Winners of a script-writing competition held throughout the month of January were presented with prizes sponsored by local dive operator, Uncle Chang. The competition was part of an awareness campaign under this project aimed at engaging local youths on Bum Bum Island in adopting conservation causes. Youths were required to write a 30-second radio script encouraging listeners to protect marine life. The winners’ script, by Abdul Hamid bin Abdul Fitri and Nakisah binti Sailus, will be aired over Radio FM in April.
KAHUMBU – THE WHALE
Kahumbu means whale in Bajau. In Semporna, the name holds far more than the methodical meaning describing a marine species. Encik Jamal Samala, an elder who is a member of the Village Development Committee (Jawatankuasa Kemajuan Kampung) from Denawan Island, revealed an age-old Bajau belief that spirits take the form of whales. These spirits are also known as ‘Omboh’.
The Bajau Laut community have immense respect for this magnificent species, believing that its purpose is to protect the sea it lives in, saving lives and punishing those who destroy it. This is derived from the belief that the spirit shows itself in the form of a whale. Another term used to convey the significance of this species is ‘Omboh di Laut’, which means 'Spirit of the Sea’ or ‘God of the Sea’.
SULU-SULAWESI MARINE ECOREGION (SSME)
Semporna Priority Conservation Area (PCA) is part of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) - an area encompassing the three countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines; an area amounting to over 1,000,000 sq km2 of both land and sea. This ecoregion contains a wealth of biodiversity that includes over 650 species of reef fishes (including the endangered humphead wrasse), 400 species of both hard and soft corals, 400 species of marine algae, and 5 out of the 7 marine turtle species that exist in the world. It is the apex of the Coral Triangle.
This project supports the SSME Conservation Plan, which is a Trinational Plan of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The implementation of activities is carried out under three Action Plans on Marine Protected Areas, Sustainable Fisheries, and Charismatic and Endangered Species. These Action Plans are steered by the three countries under a Trinational Committee. WWF-Malaysia, through its Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion Programme, carries out activities in support of these Action Plans.
For further information, please contact:
Marina Aman Sham, Communications Officer, Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion Programme, WWF-Malaysia
Tel (office): +6088 262 420 / Mobile: 012 833 1976 / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org