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No power unless park gazetted
Published on: Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kudat: Sabah Parks maintains it has no power over the protection of species in the proposed multi-use Tun Mustapha Marine Park yet.

The proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Park Manager Augustine Binson on Tuesday said they would only be able to do so once the park has been gazetted, which is scheduled in 2015.

Based on their timeline, their effort stood on the final stages, then consultation level, where they are in the midst of finalising the marine park's management and zoning plan, before they can hold a public hearing over gazettement. In all there are about 15 stages beginning with the proposal that was done in 2003.

There are over 50 islands included in the park, with over 80,000 people living in close to 60 villages and according to Binson several consultations had already been held between stakeholders namely, village chiefs, village development and safety committee and representatives previously.

"The public hearing of about 80,000 villagers had not been held.

So far the consultations are being done at the district offices," he said.

So far, all the consultations between the groups and the local commercial fishing group had shown positive signs, where several zones had bordered for community use, conservation area and commercial fishing.

It was learnt that the power over the protection of species still remained under the Wildlife Department, including the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

The park that is part of the coral triangle initiative is believed to have a higher biodiversity than the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and also the migratory gateway for Dugongs, sea turtles, whales and Irrawady dolphins.

But the park is under constant threat of fish bombing, turtle poaching and encroachment of fish trawlers into shallow fishing areas which are the source of income and food to local villages.

Meanwhile, poachers are constantly on the move and this gives them the upper hand against the authorities, Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) said, Tuesday.

Its Corporate Communications Head Newmond Tibin said the agency is against destructive fishing and poaching of wildlife in the east coast areas and expressed concern over the recent reports of the "mass killing" of turtles at Pulau Tiga, in Kudat.

He said Esscom is aware of poaching and destructive fishing taking place in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone and several operations had been held against turtle poaching based on tip-offs, twice in Pulau Tiga and one in Mantani Island.

The operation was carried out by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) on Sept. 2 and Dec. 7, last year, at nearby Pulau Tiga and another on March 1 off Mantanani Island, this year, he said.

"But no evidence were found. The operations may be late or too premature," he said.

Nonetheless, Tibin said Esscom also needed public tip offs, adding that these activities were also carried out by locals and the communities.

Last week, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) researcher-lecturer Dr James Alin said he stumbled upon a mass "killing field" of some 60 protected turtle species on Pulau Tiga, an island under under the purview of Esscom and part of the proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Park that is scheduled to be gazetted in 2015.

Following the incident, Democratic Action Party (Sabah Dap) Edwin Bosi has demanded the government including Esscom to explain why the incident had gone unnoticed when Esscom was supposed to know all that was happening along the coast there.

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