Feb 28, 2009

WWF-Malaysia supports call for seagrass protection

WWF 23 Jan 09
We refer to the article by Mr. Mah Hong Seng “Seagrass of great value” (The Star, Jan 1, 2009) and the response from the Department of Fisheries Malaysia (DoFM) (The Star, Jan 21, 2009).

We fully support the call by Mr. Mah Hong Seng for the proper management and protection of the seagrass at the Merambong site. We are also very happy to note that DoFM has taken this very seriously and recognizes the importance of seagrass as essential food for threatened marine animals. We hope that DoFM will also proactively take the lead in pushing for better management and protection of other marine ecosystems for fish resources and other endangered marine animals.

Coastal habitats are not given enough attention and protection. Examples of some coastal habitats that warrant protections are coastal mudflats which are important for cockle culture e.g. the Kuala Selangor mudflats. The Kilim-Kisap Mangrove forest, the largest in Langkawi, is slowly losing its mangrove stretches to aquaculture. Some of the islands around Langkawi have good coral cover but no protection. Coastal and marine habitats in Sabah are similarly under threat and in need of greater protection, particularly in Kudat-Banggi and Semporna areas.

Overall, not only are many of the natural habitats and marine ecosystems degraded or destroyed but fish stocks have also declined substantially. In some areas the declines have been as high as 95%. Today less than 0.5% of Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters are gazetted as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and these cover mainly offshore islands. WWF-Malaysia would like to see a much higher percentage of the EEZ covered by MPAs to enable fish stocks recovery from the current overfished status.

DoFM must be proactive in taking new measures to sustainably manage our fish resources. In this respect, we strongly urge DoFM to consider Ecosystem Based Management of Fisheries (EBMF) as an alternative management tool. EBMF is a management tool that involves all interested parties such as stakeholders, managers and decision makers in the consultation, planning and execution phases of any management undertaking. WWF-Malaysia is willing and prepared to cooperate with DoFM in seeing to the adoption of EBMF as a management tool.

From: Dato' Dr. Dionysius S.K. Sharma D.P.M.P., Executive Director/CEO, WWF-Malaysia

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