The proposed Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) represents almost one million hectares of marine protected area off the north coast of Sabah, Malaysia.
The park will encompass 50 islands and will protect one of the world’s most biodiverse marine ecosystems.
“The gazettement of Tun Mustapha Park is a globally significant action that will boost the conservation and biodiversity of this uniquely rich natural environment.
"It will also do much to ensure the sustainable management of the significant marine resources in the area, for the long-term benefit of the more than 80,000 people living on the coast and islands in the proposed park,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.
Fishing is a key economic driver of this northern coastal area of Sabah, with approximately 100 tonnes of fish – valued at $200,000 – caught each day.
The planned park holds four species of sea turtles, 550 fish species, 252 hard coral species, and 243 invertebrate species with new species being discovered continuously. Migratory marine mammals such as dolphins and whales also feed in the area.
WWF’s Leaders for a Living Planet Award acknowledges the long-standing commitment of the Sabah state government to create the proposed Tun Mustapha Park.
The award recognises the role the government’s lead agency, Sabah Parks, has played in advancing this issue and encourages the state government to designate the park as planned by the end of 2015.
Marco Lambertini also paid tribute to Dato’ Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin, Chairman of Sabah Parks, for the outstanding contribution his organisation has made in the long journey toward TMP’s gazettement.
“The announcement of the Sabah Government’s intention to gazette the TMP to create Malaysia’s largest marine park has not only national significance, but regional and global importance too as a significant marine area in the Coral Triangle – an area gravely threatened by overfishing and pollution,” said Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma, Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia.
WWF-Malaysia has been supporting the gazettement process and working with state government agencies and partners since 2003 through implementation of a number of strategies to support the establishment of the TMP, including community consultations, demonstrating benefits of marine protected areas, alternative livelihood programmes, and education and public awareness.