Photograph / WWF Malaysia
Malaysia upped the ante in marine tourism when they opened the Tun Mustapha Park (TMP), occupying 1 million hectares in the northern tip of Sabah province in Borneo. To date, it is the second largest concentration of coral reefs in Malaysia and the biggest marine protected area in the country. Under the park, 250 species of hard corals, 360 species of fish, and endangered animals like green turtles and dugongs can prosper.
If you want to imagine how big a million hectares is, Quezon City has 16,112.8 hectares. So that means TMP is 62 times larger than Quezon City.
The park was established to preserve the biodiversity and allow fish population to increase and damaged corals to repair themselves. In 2012, the research team found that 57% of the reefs were in good to excellent condition, while the rest were damaged by overfishing, blast fishing, and the use of sodium cyanide to capture high value reef species. Slightly-damaged coral reefs can recover in three to five years, while those with deeper damage will recover in five to ten years or more.
The team also noticed the absence of sharks and turtles, which has a negative implication.
The development of the park took 13 years of consultations between the fishing industry, Malaysia’s Sabah Parks department, and NGO’s like World Wildlife Fund (WWF). It took that long because of the size and the complexity of the project, but the result is an ecologically-sustainable environment where small and big fisheries can still fish in designated areas they selected, while marine life is protected. Fisheries gather catch worth 100 tonnes each day.
TMP can also boost tourism in the area. There are white sand beaches, more than 50 islands, turtle nesting areas for voluntourism, and diving.
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