GEF-UNDP Project Conserves Marine Biodiversity, Supports Sustainable Livelihoods in Malaysia

27 March 2014: Tioman Island, Malaysia, has adopted a "reef etiquette" philosophy following a six-year project financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The project expanded Malaysia's marine park system by 6,400 hectares and addressed illegal fishing and relationships between local communities and conservation authorities.

Prior to implementing the ‘Conserving Marine Biodiversity Through Enhanced Marine Park Management and Inclusive Island Development' project, which ran from 2007 to 2013, locals and foreign vessels illegally fished in Tioman's marine protected areas (MPAs). Tourism also contributed to a variety of environmental problems, ranging from litter on local beaches to coral damage from anchoring on reefs. Further, there was limited interaction between the local communities and the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia (DMPM). As DMPM officer Che Omar explained, local communities were “caught in the middle between the need to earn an income, the restrictions and limited options to earn income from other sources.”

The project developed MPA management plans for Redang, Sibu-Tinggi and Tioman islands through a multistakeholder process that involved communities and state and national government representatives. The project also developed and implemented an enforcement manual and a coral reef bleaching response plan. Following the rehabilitation of coral reefs, marine surveys show a 13% increase in live coral cover at Redang Island.

To support local livelihoods, the project trained local communities in sustainable professions, such as sustainable tourism activities, and provided them with equipment. The project also: built the capacity of 156 staff to conduct patrols and arrest illegal fishers; established regular coral reef clean ups; raised awareness on marine park rules among businesses, communities and tourists; and worked to eliminate Crown of Thorns, a starfish that destroys coral.

Tioman is located off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia.

Source: Biodiversity Policy & Practice

Photo: © Doungjun Roongruang