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SIMCA is the first co-managed marine protected area in Malaysia. Located within the Sulu Sea region, SIMCA encompasses 46, 317 hectares and includes three islands – Lankayan, Billean and Tegaipil. SIMCA is home to at least 600 species of fish, 300 species of corals, 2 species of sea turtles, 6 species of giant clams and 26 species of seagrass and algae.
SIMCA is managed by Reef Guardian Sdn. Bhd., a non-profit company appointed by the Sabah State Government.
“This global recognition is a milestone for SIMCA. It shows that all our efforts over the years have come to fruition,” said Dr. Achier Chung, Lead Marine Biologist and Reef Guardian Manager.
Chung attributes the success of SIMCA to close collaborations, particularly with the Sabah Wildlife Department, the local maritime enforcement agencies including the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) and General Operations Forces to combat encroachments into the SIMCA protected zone.
"SIMCA was gazetted under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 since October 2003 as Marine Wildlife Conservation Area. It has been a great partnership between the Sabah State Government and Reef Guardian Sdn. Bhd. in rehabilitating and preserving the area for 19th years since its establishments. We are very proud on the achievement and it was not an easy task indeed. We hope that our partnership will continue to maintain the accomplishment we had and more things to come,” said Mr. Augustine Tuuga, the Director of Sabah Wildlife Department.
The evaluation process for the IUCN Green List in Malaysia is carried out by the Expert Assessment Group for Green List Malaysia (EAGL). The group comprises 10 multi-disciplinary volunteer experts who undertakes the evaluation of Green List Candidates against the Green List criteria and indicators.
“SIMCA’s new status marks a milestone for Sabah and Malaysia in general and we are looking forward to more milestones to come. At present, there are seven more Protected and Conserved Area on their way to Green Listing, including the Danum Valley Conservation Area, the Tun Mustapha Park, the Sook Lake Forest Reserve and Pin Supu Forest Reserve in Sabah as well as the Bako National Park, Santubong National Park and Jagoi Heritage Forest in Sarawak,” said the EAGL Chair, Rambli Ahmad.
Due to previous Covid-19 restrictions preventing the team from visiting the SIMCA site, EAGL conducted its site assessments virtually.
“This meant that the assessment team had to be twice as thorough in their evaluation. In the end, it was possible as SIMCA was able to provide strong evidence of their achievement,” said Elyrice Alim, Manager for Protected Areas at WWF-Malaysia, an implementing partner and evaluation coordinator for EAGL.
“SIMCA achievement today is testament of their relentless efforts in protection and enforcement. We hope that SIMCA’s success serves as an inspiration to other protected sites to follow suit,” she added.
From left: Dr. Henry Chan (Conservation Director, WWF-Malaysia), Augustine Tuuga (Director, Sabah Wildlife Department), Dr. Kathy MacKinnon (Chair of IUCN, World Commission of Protected Areas), Dr. Archier Chung (Reef Guardians Sdn Bhd), Davies Spiji (Reef Guardians Sdn Bhd).
Photo courtesy of Sri Pelancongan Sabah