The Secretariat is pleased to announce that Malaysia has joined the IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU, making it the 33nd IOSEA Signatory State. The Honourable Dato’ Ahamad Sabki bin Mahmood, Director-General of the Department of Fisheries Malaysia, signed the agreement on 19 September 2011 in Putrajaya (Kuala Lumpur), before dozens of interested observers. Malaysia is arguably the birthplace of the Indian Ocean – South-East Asian Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding, for it was in the coastal city of Kuantan that the text of the IOSEA agreement was negotiated and finally concluded in July 2000.
Four species of marine turtles are recognised as nesting in Malaysia, with the states of Sabah, Sarawak and Terengganu contributing 80% of the country’s annual nesting. Green turtles are the most abundant of the four species and are thought to be increasing in Sabah.
Leatherback and olive ridley turtle populations have experienced precipitous declines over the past several decades, to the point that their nesting is rarely observed in peninsular Malaysia. Hawksbill turtles, though in general decline, have fared better in Sabah and in Melaka, where critical habitat is nonetheless under threat from coastal development.
Since the 1950s, Malaysia has instituted a remarkable hatchery system, which has expanded to include some 26 (mostly ex-situ and some in-situ) hatcheries throughout the country, producing 800,000 – one million hatchlings annually. Six Turtle Information and Conservation Centers, situated in five different states, promote awareness of marine turtles among the general public. The Fisheries Research Institute Rantau Abang (formerly known as the Turtle and Marine Ecosystem Centre) plays a plays a vital role in stimulating national research and conservation. SEAFDEC’s Marine Fishery Resources Development and Management Department (MFRDMD), located in Kuala Terengganu, coordinates regional turtle research and practical field conservation measures, and is a model for international cooperation.
In November 2008, Malaysia launched a National Plan of Action on Conservation and Management of Sea Turtles, the provisions of which are closely aligned with those of the IOSEA Conservation and Management Plan. The NPOA’s main priorities include a national ban on commercial sale of turtle eggs, harmonization of state legislation pertaining to marine turtles, and the gazetting of turtle sanctuaries at all important nesting beaches.
Malaysia established a Sea Turtle Working Group in July 2010 whose objectives are to monitor implementation of the National Plan of Action by various government agencies and non-governmental organisations. It is hoped that the Working Group, which includes representation from various government agencies, statutory bodies, universities and NGO’s, will have a chance to meet prior to the IOSEA Signatory State meeting in early December.
With such an active engagement in marine turtle conservation extending back many decades, Malaysia is well-placed to begin implementing the IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU with a “running start” when the agreement takes effect on 1 December 2011 -- just in time for Malaysia to be represented in the Sixth Meeting of the Signatory States as a full-fledged member.
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Click for here for the speeches delivered on the occasion of the signing ceremony by:
Dato’ Ahamad Sabki bin Mahmood, Director-General of the Department of Fisheries
Douglas Hykle, IOSEA Coordinator