This June, Malaysia will officially establish the biggest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the country – and one of the largest in South East Asia. The Tun Mustapha Park will occupy a whopping 1.6 million hectares of seascape, including 50 islands, of the northern tip of Sabah in East Malaysia.
One of Asia’s best diving havens, the region contains the second largest concentration of coral reefs in Malaysia, making it a firm favourite of local and international diving enthusiasts, with pristine waters offering up a wealth of treasure for scuba divers of every ability.
Malaysia’s Minister for Tourism, Culture & Environment Datuk Seri Masidi made the announcement earlier this month, also declaring that Tun Mustapha and Malaysia’s two other major MPAs, Tun Sakaran and Tunku Abdul Rahman would also become shark sanctuaries. According to Masidi, sharks are a crucial aspect of Sabah’s nature based tourism industry. “Shark species are vital to the diving business, which generates about RM380 million (US$9.4 million) per year. We will lose the shark population in 10 year’s time if stakeholders continue serving shark fin soup,” he claimed.
The proposed TMP and is also home to, and provides a source of livelihood for, over 80,000 people who depend on its resources. Locals are drawn from a diverse range of ethnicities and backgrounds, contributing significantly to the rich cultural heritage of the proposed park.
The concept for the park is to be a multiple use, managed area, which includes areas for strict protection, artisanal fishing and commercial fishing among others, and is expected to be a major draw card for tourism.