KUDAT: The Tun Mustapha Marine Park (TMP) here will be a beacon of tourism in the years to come, Sabah Special Task Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang said today.
Launching the park’s first-year anniversary celebration, Teo said that TMP’s appeal lies in its white sandy beaches, mysterious caves and rich marine life, courtesy of its strategic location within the Coral Triangle.
He said he believes it is high time for private companies to start taking advantage of the park's potential.
"As with many industries, the government only facilitates tourism, while it is the private sector that drives it.
"So, I encourage all players to come in and work together to develop the marine park into a premier destination not just in Malaysia, but on an international level," he said.
The anniversary also coincides with the conclusion of a year-long research expedition into the park area by various agencies and universities, including the University of Queensland, Australia.
The expedition, involving 110 researchers, aimed to investigate the park's touristic potential, unique flora and fauna, and socioeconomic impact.
"Unlike other parks, such as Kinabalu Park, TMP is not closed off to outsiders – we must account for the locals who make a living on the islands and in waters throughout the park.
"Therefore, in managing this park, we must consider its impact on the locals' socioeconomic situation," explained Teo, adding that certain zones have been set up to ensure that locals are able to continue fishing in a sustainable manner.
Launched last year, the TMP is Malaysia's biggest marine park at 898,762.76 hectares.
In addition to attractions like the scenic islands of Banggi, Balambangan and Malawali, the park is home to a variety of unique, native species of marine life which are protected by the TMP, in partnership with Sabah Parks and agencies such as the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).