KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) has worked together with the International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems (ISME) and University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) in an effort to safeguard Sabah’s mangrove ecosystem.
A total of 60 individuals and volunteers from the three organisations have participated in the two-day event starting from Aug 27.
The marine conservation event consists of two main activities such as planting of mangrove seedlings in mangrove forest reserve in Sulaman and in Weston, and the release of mangrove crabs in Sulaman Bay Forest Reserve.
During the event, Sulaman Wetland Sanctuary supplied 1,200 mangrove seedlings from the species of Rhizophora apiculate and were then planted.
The mangrove species was known locally as “Bangkita”, which is a native species throughout the Indo-West Pacific region. A mature tree grows to a height of 30 metres, with a characteristic system of stilt roots arching out from the trunk.
The species is listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, despite a decrease in the population trend of the number of mature trees being recorded from its range distribution.
At the same event, 500 mangrove crabs from the species of Scylla tranquebarica supplied by the Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI), UMS, were released. Locally known as “Kabaw Gawa” by the Bajau Samahs living in Sulaman, mangrove crabs are exploited as a food resource throughout Sabah.
The BMRI researchers noted, there exists a flourishing but undocumented mangrove crab trade in the State, even targeting the lucrative international market.
Unfortunately, the currently unregulated wild-caught mangrove crab trade is already showing signs of overfishing following the drastic drop in production in less than a decade. However, none of the mangrove crab species are currently listed on any national protected species listings.
The number of mangrove crabs released during the event is small for the vast area where they were released in.
Nevertheless, the gesture of their release is a significant one as such an effort together with the efforts to rehabilitate and conserve their habitat is a direct contribution towards achieving IUCNs Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), particularly SDG 14.
With a reserve area of approximately 490 hectares, the Sulaman Bay Forest Reserve is an ideal site for the mangrove crab restocking initiative, where the released crablets will have plenty of roaming area and food resources to grow and replicate in a natural environment.
The mangrove rehabilitation project also received funding from Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd., Japan, in which the company channeled the funds to SFD via ISME.
For SFD and BMRI-UMS, both institutions will continue joint conservation efforts in the future, the latter with plans to restock Sabah’s coastal ecosystems, particularly in coastal forest reserves, with mangrove crabs and various other hatchery-produced species.
Present at the event were Executive Director, ISME Professor Emeritus Dr. Shigeyuki Baba, Senior Vice President, Tokio Marine Nichido & Fire Insurance Co. Ltd., Japan Makoto Okada, representatives from Sabah Department of Fisheries, and researchers from the three organisations.