More protected areas needed

ONLY 4.3% of the country’s waters have been gazetted as marine protected areas (MPA), says state agriculture, agro-based and rural development committee chairman Datuk Samsolbari Jamali.

He said as a member of the United Nations and under the Convention on Biological Diversity, Malaysia must gazette at least 10% of its national waters as MPAs.

He said expanding MPAs would contribute to reaching goals set under the Aichi Biodiversity Tar-gets, the Convention on Biological Diversity and UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #14: Life Below Water. (The SDGs are 17 interlinked goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”.)

Samsolbari said this in reply to Liow Cai Tung (Pakatan-Johor Jaya) and Cheo Yee How (Pakatan-Perling) who asked about the government’s efforts to protect marine life yesterday.

He added that the Johor Marine Park is the largest in Peninsular Malaysia, consisting of 13 islands.

Samsolbari also said there is additional gazetting of waters in the Mersing archipelago, including seven islands.

“The gazettement of the islands as Sultan Iskandar Marine Park under the Fisheries Act 1985 (Act 317) is important to preserve the species and natural habitats of marine life.

“It also fulfils Malaysia’s obligations at the international level while addressing the risk of encroachment by foreign fishermen.

“The state Fisheries Department has noted the presence of dugongs, whale sharks, manta rays and dolphins in the Johor Marine Park.

“For the protection of these marine park treasures, Sections 41 to 45 of the Fisheries Act 1985 have outlined rules on the management, prohibition and enforcement of the Johor Marine Park,” he said.

Among the prohibited activities are taking, capturing or disturbing any marine resource whether living or dead, and constructing any structure in marine park waters.

So far, there have been 32 arrests this year in the waters off Mersing.

One of the efforts to preserve marine species is through a turtle conservation programme.

“In 2021, RM30,000 was allocated to manage turtles in Johor waters but in 2022, the state government will allocate RM200,000 to buy turtle eggs from villagers and place them at the turtle conservation centre on Pulau Tinggi,” he said.

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