There’s now another reason to visit magnificent Malaysia!
This May, Malaysia established Tun Mustapha Park, its newest–and biggest!–marine protected area, just off of Borneo’s northern shore. The area is comprised of one million hectare of coral reefs, mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and scores of marine animals, including the endangered green turtle and the dugong (a relative of the manatee.)
One of the area’s biggest values–and one of its biggest downfalls–is its importance as a fishing area for the many thousands of locals that depend on the Malaysian seas for their livelihood. Due to overfishing and blast fishing using explosives and chemicals, a research team of marine scientists reported in 2012 that although most of the reefs were still in good or great condition, they were in danger of rapidly degrading. They also reported that there was a noticeable absence of larger animals such as sharks, a sign that the ecosystem is in peril.
Consequently, Malaysia has created a revolutionary system of compromise, leaving some designated fishing areas in the park for, and in part determined by, the locals who depend on them. Due to the complicated nature of these agreements and the vitality of the park to both the local economy and the country’s ecosystems, the marine protected area at Tun Mustapha has taken 13 years to develop. Finally, with these new protections, the sea’s health and its abundance of fish should be able to bounce back to full health in just a few years.
These developments have created a wonderful opportunity for marine ecotourism in this largely undiscovered part of Malaysia, complete with pristine and gorgeous white sand beaches and more than 50 islands for ultimate relaxation as well as incredible reefs for snorkeling and diving, with 250 kinds of hard corals and 360 different species of fish–that’s more than 660 reasons to buy your plane tickets now.
Source: The Guardian