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© Jurgen Freund / WWF
© Jurgen Freund / WWF

A deep-dive into shark and ray MPAs helps protect the species in Malaysia

Added to Updates on 20 July 2021
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To help better conserve sharks and rays in marine parks in the state of Sabah, WWF-Malaysia co-organized a virtual workshop with a focus on marine protected areas in collaboration with the Sabah Parks authority. This was the second such workshop co-organized by WWF in Asia.

The Global Fin Print study released some of its findings in 2020, revealing that sharks were functionally extinct in nearly 20% of all reefs the researchers studied. In Malaysia, sharks were shown to be  abundant and thriving only in the Sipadan island, with fewer sharks seen in the other surveyed areas. However, the study also indicated there is a potential for Malaysia to increase its shark population when good management and enforcement are put in place.

With that knowledge and urgency in mind, WWF-Malaysia in collaboration with Sabah Parks, conducted a virtual capacity building workshop on 23-24 June 2021 focused on marine protected areas (MPAs) for sharks and rays in the state of Sabah. The workshop welcomed representatives from Sabah Parks, Department of Fisheries Sabah, University Malaysia Sabah, and the Marine Research Foundation. 

Dr. Cassie Rigby, a research fellow at the James Cook University, led the training session and introduced the participants toA Practical Guide to the Effective Design and Management of MPAs for Sharks and Rays, the Rapid Assessment Toolkit for Sharks and Rays, Responsible Shark and Ray Tourism Guide, and a forthcoming guidance on defining and identifying critical habitats for sharks and rays.

Group Shot Day 1
A group "photo" of  Day 1 workshop participants on Zoom © WWF-Malaysia

Using the guidelines provided, participants were tasked with using Sipadan and Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) as real-life MPA case studies, considering the multi-dimensional aspects of designing MPA for sharks and rays. This includes but is not limited to the biology and ecology of the shark and ray focal species, socio-economic factors, fisheries measures, as well as existing regulation and legislation.

The workshop with all the new information and tools shared, enabled the participants to move forward and incorporate shark and ray considerations into the design and management of marine parks. This also aligns with Sabah Parks priority and aspirations in relation to the IUCN Green List Status for TMP and as part of the Coral Triangle Marine Protected Areas System (CTMPAS).

WWF-Malaysia and partners believe that this workshop could further contribute to the long-term conservation of sharks and rays in Malaysia, particularly within MPAs.

This was the second such deep-dive workshop with a focus on shark and ray MPAs co-organized by WWF. The Malaysia edition followed the first iteration held in April on the occasion of the 3rd National Sharks and Rays Symposium of Indonesia and organized in collaboration with the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF).

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