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Malaysia to stress on mapping marine ecosystems

The management of the Malaysian marine environment is an area, which the newly created Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment intends to tackle head-on.

Speaking at an international workshop on the administration of marine environments, Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister S. Sothinathan said that the ministry found implementing marine based policies challenging.

“The marine environment is still not considered to be a priority for countries in the region. Like many other countries in the Asia Pacific region, we have very good land mapping systems and management procedures but when it comes to the seas, we require expert knowledge and experience. In Malaysia, we must ensure we map and protect some 574,000 sq km of marine areas whereas the 329,000 sq km of land area is managed very well,” Sothinathan told reporters at a press conference.

The main aim of the workshop was to develop strategies, which would allow for a universal and effective method of mapping the spatial dimensions of marine areas.

Prof Ian Williamson from the University of Melbourne said policies regarding marine conservation must not be viewed separately from land. “The marine environment is affected by what occurs on land as in many cases 75% of pollution occurs on dry ground. “The mapping of marine environments and the definition of coastal boundaries in relation to land will help in the development of suitable policies to protect as well as to take advantage of these areas.

“Our main area of concern is the coastal zones, where activities such as tourism, aquaculture, marine transportation, and fishing have a profound effect on marine environments,” said Prof Williamson, who is chairperson for the Working Group III Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific.

Organised by the Department of Survey and Mapping Malaysia and University of Melbourne at the Renaissance Hotel, the workshop ends May 7.