Coral in Malaysia
Coral in Malaysia. Photo credit: WWF-Malaysia/Eric Madeja
21 June 2016

A six-year collaboration between the Malaysian Government and University of Queensland researchers has resulted in the creation of  Malaysia’s biggest marine protected area.

UQ ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) researcher Dr Carissa Klein said the marine region at the northern tip of Borneo was globally significant for its marine life and diverse habitats including coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass, and threatened species including dugong, and sea turtles.

“We taught the World Wildlife Fund-Malaysia and Sabah Parks to use Marxan, an environmental mathematical decision software package developed by UQ, to help create the region’s 898,000-hectare Tun Mustapha Park,” Dr Klein said.

“The region is home to more than 187,000 people, about half of whom depend on marine resources for their livelihood and wellbeing.

“Our Marxan with Zones software I is an advanced version of the original software that informed the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef.

“This software allowed us to use the information provided by local communities to help decide what areas should be protected and what areas should remain open for different kinds of fishing.”

WWF-Malaysia lead marine scientist Robecca Jumin said Marxan amalgamated several complex datasets to provide a starting point for negotiations about zone boundaries in the marine park.

ARC CEED Director Professor Hugh Possingham said the analysis identified priority areas which were then reviewed by the Malaysian Government and local communities.

“This resulted in a plan which has just been declared,” Professor Possingham said.

UQ researchers Dr Klein, Dr Maria Beger, Ms Jennifer McGowan, Dr Chris Brown, Mr Matt Watts, Professor Hugh Possingham and Dr Hedley Grantham have supported the Sabah Parks through the Malaysian Government to develop the zoning plan.  

Media: Dr Carissa Klein,, +61 401 582 606; Professor Hugh Possingham,, +61 434 079 061 (US time from June 12-25).