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Sabah Parks and WWF-Malaysia Penned Plans to Gazette Darvel Bay as a Marine Protected Area

8 July 2022, Kota Kinabalu: A five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Sabah Parks and WWF-Malaysia signed and marked the start of a monumental initiative in supporting the effective management of key marine biodiversity areas in Sabah.  

Represented by Dr Maklarin Haji Lakim, Director of Sabah Parks, and Ms Sophia Lim, Executive Director/ CEO of WWF-Malaysia, the collaboration consists of efforts to the proposed gazettement of Darvel Bay Park, which is being established in line with Sabah Parks’ Strategic Plan 2025. This Strategic Plan directly supports the  Sabah State Government’s plan in gazetting the sea area of 117,000 ha and 56 islands within Darvel Bay as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) by 2023.

In order to ensure Darvel Bay park in becoming a truly holistic MPA in the future, this MoU focuses on the aspects of the effective management system, collaborative management with local communities, effective surveillance and enforcement, scientific research and education with the tourism and fisheries industries, the protection and restoration of key ecosystems (coral reefs, seagrass, and mangroves) and key species (sea turtles, dugong, sharks, and commercially valuable fish).

Ms Sophia Lim, Executive Director/ CEO of WWF-Malaysia explained that MPAs offer a range of benefits for fisheries, people, and the marine environment. By providing a safe haven for depleted fish stocks to recover, MPAs increase food security and reduce poverty. By establishing MPAs, exploited fish are able to live longer, grow bigger to reach maturity and yield healthier offspring, which then increase the resilience of the fish population. 

This marks the second MoU between Sabah Parks and WWF-Malaysia, the first being the collaboration for Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) in 2017. TMP is presently the second largest marine park and the largest multi-use park in Malaysia. As a multi-use park in the future, Darvel Bay Park will offer vital economical benefits to local communities and society, while protecting important marine ecosystems. The park will also be managed within a multi-stakeholder environment, guided by an integrated management plan.

“Malaysia lies within globally important marine regions: Greater Sunda Mangroves, the South China Sea and Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion. The latter lies at the apex of the Coral Triangle and harbours the highest marine biodiversity in the world. At present, we have only protected less than 5% of the total marine area in Malaysia and there is a significant need to heighten conservation efforts to prevent further environmental damage.  WWF-Malaysia will continuously advocate for the protection of 30% of the country’s maritime waters (approximately 16.9 million ha), for the benefit of nature, livelihoods, businesses and future generations”, says Ms Sophia Lim, Executive Director/ CEO of WWF-Malaysia.

“The proposed Darvel Bay Park aims to cover the concept of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s category 6 - Protected Area with sustainable use of natural resources;  which allows controlled fishing activities which support the protection of key marine habitat ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds. At the same time, the Darvel Bay Park will be co-managed with key stakeholders and local community members to ensure equal rights and opportunities for sustainable development,” states Dr Maklarin, Director of Sabah Parks.

In light of the Sabah State Government’s goal of gazetting 13% of Sabah’s coastal marine areas as MPA by 2023, this collaborative effort is a shining beacon of hope for multiple stakeholders to come together to champion holistic habitat protection, and to nurture an MPA where not only biodiversity and marine species are protected, but also the coastal community who relies on it.

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