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Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area
Kawasan Pemeliharaan Marin Kepulauan Sugud

First Listed

2022

Area
463.17km2

Why is it Green Listed?

Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA) is the first privately managed marine protected area in Malaysia.

As part of the Coral Triangle, SIMCA is home to at least 500 species of fishes, 300 species of corals, 2 species of sea turtles, 26 species of seagrasses and algae, 6 species of giant clams, and countless of other marine invertebrates.

Active interventions by SIMCA has demonstrated successful conservation outcomes through the rehabilitation and revival of coral reefs, fish and threatened species in the area. In particular, average annual green turtle nesting in Lankayan increased about seven-folds between two periods, from an average of 51.8 nests (2000-2003) to 357.5 nests (2004-2019), and from 49.5 nests to 51.4 nests for Hawksbill turtles.

This global recognition is a milestone for Simca. It shows that all our efforts over the years have come to fruition

Dr Achier Chung, Lead Marine Biologist, Reef Guardian Sdn Bhd

Key Achievements

Conservation

  • Preservation & conservation of natural values

Good governance

  • Joint management of protected area (Private-Government)
  • Stakeholder engagement

Community benefits

  • Socioeconomic benefit: Job opportunities
  • Fisheries benefits from “spill-over” effect

It has been a great partnership between the Sabah State Government and Reef Guardian Sdn Bhd in rehabilitating and preserving the area over the last 19 years.

We are very proud of the achievement and it was not an easy task indeed. We hope that our partnership will continue to maintain the accomplishment we had and more things to come

Augustine Tuuga, Sabah Wildlife Department director

Site Attributes

WDPA ID

Size
463.17 km2

Designation(s)
Marine Protected Area (Declared as "Conservation Area" under Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997)

IUCN Category
II - National Park

Year Established
2001

Marine Protected Area
Yes

Marine Area
100% - 463.17 km2

Area of no-take
100% - 463.17 km2

Types of Fishery Permitted
None
Governance Type
Collaborative governance

Site Agency
Sabah Wildlife Department / Reef Guardian

Site Manager
Chung Fung Chen

Application
28/02/2019

EAGL Evaluation
24/05/2021

GL Committee Submission
04/06/2021

EAGL Chair
Bee Hong YEO

ASI Reviewer
Jessie Ooi

Site Summary

Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA) is the first privately managed marine protected area in Malaysia. Located within the Sulu Sea region, it encompasses 46, 317 hectares, which includes three islands (Lankayan, Billean and Tegaipil) and characterised by shallow coastal reefs, seagrass beds and sandy bottom.

As part of the Coral Triangle, SIMCA is home to at least 500 species of fishes, 300 species of corals, 2 species of sea turtles, 26 species of seagrasses and algae, 6 species of giant clams, and countless of other marine invertebrates.

Reef Guardian Sdn. Bhd. is a non-profit company that has been appointed by Sabah state government since 2004 to fully manage SIMCA, in close collaboration with Sabah Wildlife Department. The main objective of this organisation is to manage and enforce SIMCA as a no-take zone, and to ensure the balance between the conservation of the coral habitat and marine life, and the need to utilise resources for the eco-tourism industry

Substantial evidence supports the reduction of blast fishing in SIMCA due to 16-18 years of adaptive management interventions implemented by the site through collaborative surveillance with local enforcement agencies and international organisations (Reef Defenders).

The nearest communities are located approximately 35km from SIMCA’s main island, Lankayan. The local communities do not depend directly on SIMCA for subsistence yet they are actively involved in supporting SIMCA by reporting illegal fishing activities. The Reef Guardian’s patrols and enforcement efforts provides safety/security from infringing commercial and foreign fishers, which subsequently allow an increase in fish population and total biomass of the site that is likely beyond baseline levels. These efforts have indirectly supported sustainable livelihoods to the local communities nearby SIMCA.

1. Natural Values
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
Sea Turtles
Threshold value: Lankayan Island Average annual nesting (2000-2003) Green turtle = 51.8 nests, Hawksbill turtle = 49.5 nests Billean Island Annual nesting (2010) Green turtle = 4 nests, Hawksbill turtle = 8 nests
SEA TURTLES Lankayan Island Average annual nesting (2004-2019) Green turtles = 357.5 nests, Hawksbill turtle = 51.4 nests Billean Island Average annual nesting (2011-2019) Green turtles = 9.4 nest, Hawksbill turtle = 11.6 nests
SEA TURTLES Nesting in Lankayan Island Green turtle = 6.9 fold increase Hawksbill turtle = 1.04 fold increase. Nesting in Billean Island Green turtle = 3.4 fold increase Hawksbill turtle = 2.5 fold increase
FISHES
The reef fishes abundance & biomass surveys are conducted reefs categorised at 3 different levels of protections: L1: 2 nautical miles from the Lankayan Island (100% protection, inside SIMCA) L2: 2-4 nautical miles from Lankayan Island (50% protection, inside SIMCA) L3: 4 nautical miles away from Lankayan Island (0% protection, outside of SIMCA) (defined as threshold)
Chung et al. (2017): Reef fish abundance: L1&L2 (Mean = 624 fish/250m²) was significantly higher than L3 (Mean = 373 fish/250m²): Total fish biomass: L1&L2 (Mean = 39.5 kg/250m²) was significantly higher than L3 (Mean = 11.97kg/250m²); Species list of fish at SIMCA (2004 – 2020) 501 fish species (4 spp. critically endangered, 9 spp. endangered, 15 spp. vulnerable, 7 spp. near threatened, 349 spp. least concerned and 117 spp. data deficient / not listed in the IUCN Red List). 52 species in the list = commercially important in Malaysia.
Reef fish abundance: 1.7 fold higher inside SIMCA than outside SIMCA Total fish biomass: 3.3 fold higher inside SIMCA than outside SIMCA The occurrence of many threatened & commercially important species within SIMCA affirms the need for the continuous protection within the reserve to provide refuge & allow the population of the species to recover from human exploitations
CORALS
Chou et al. (1994): Live coral cover (LCC) categories: poor (<25%), fair (26% - 50%), good (51% - 75%) and excellent (>75%).
Chung et al. (2017): Percentage of coral cover was significantly higher in L1&L2 (Mean = 47.25%) compared to L3 (Mean = 33.38%). The average condition of coral reef (Annual Report 2018) Lankayan = fair (39.1% LCC), Billean fair (24.63% LCC ).
Generally higher percentage of coral inside SIMCA than outside SIMCA. Generally fair live coral cover.
2. Ecosystem Service Values
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
ECOTOURISM - SIMCA provides opportunity for ecotourism, with the natural surrounding attracting tourists to visit the site. Lankayan Island Dive Resort is currently the sole resort operator within SIMCA, where as the name suggests, is situated in Lankayan Island.
Accommodation: 29 chalets in Lankayan Dive Resort (can accommodate up to 75 visitors)
Daily visitors staying overnight (2006 – 2019) = 0 – 75 visitors (High occupancy: July & August. Average 29-59 visitors in July, and 30-58 visitors in August) Traveler rating for Lankayan Island Dive Resort 511 ratings: 70.5% rated excellent 23.3% rated very good 4.7% rated average, 0.4% rated poor 1.2% rated terrible
Controlled tourist occupancy, with occupancy never exceed beyond threshold value. 93.7% Lankayan Island Dive Resort tourists rated above average satisfaction.
RESEARCH & EDUCATION - SIMCA provides platform for research, especially on marine biodiversity, which benefit in raising the knowledge and awareness to the researchers, tourists, students and the public. The informative briefings, educational materials and outreach programmes on site, and education programmes at schools and events also serve as tools to convey educational information.
There are no set threshold values for research & education.
The benefit of SIMCA in opening research opportunities, especially in marine ecology and biodiversity supported by the publications of scientific research papers and reports. Outreach and educational programmes - reported in SIMCA annual reports & shared in Reef Guardian social media platforms. Education and awareness programme, as well as the research - contributed in the score card to assess progress in achieving management effectiveness goals.
Scientific papers are published in scientific journal platforms. Frequent educational programmes conducted to tourists/visitors/students/public.
3. Cultural Values
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
SIMCA provides conservation education and awareness platform for the local communities by changing their lifestyle and ethical values in conserving the natural environment.
None (The maintenance of good relationship with local communities and schools)
Community engagement: Initiated in 2010 Socioeconomic studies to determine the fishery & socioeconomic effects of SIMCA on the local fishing communities living nearby to SIMCA (Chung et al.,2012). Since then, more engagements conducted (awareness programmes, employments & buy-back programme). Awareness programmes at schools: Audience: students & teachers Frequency: several times in almost every year, when opportunities arise.
The communication with the local communities has been established and is improving with time, with each engagement activities that enhances the lifestyle and ethical values of the communities. Efforts are ongoing to further strengthen the relationship with these local communities. The awareness programmes at schools - provide insights and inspire on the conservation works need for a better environment - inculcate responsible actions for environment preservation.

Conservation Summary

The EAGL reaches a consensus and recommends the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA) for Green Listing. The site visit and detailed review of SIMCA materials verified that all the adapted indicators were fully met or satisfactorily achieved.

Active interventions by SIMCA has demonstrated successful conservation outcomes through the rehabilitation and revival of coral reefs, fish and threatened species in the area. In particular, average annual green turtle nesting in Lankayan increased about seven-folds between two periods, from an average of 51.8 nests (2000-2003) to 357.5 nests (2004-2019), and from 49.5 nests to 51.4 nests for Hawksbill turtles.

Substantial evidence supports the reduction of blast fishing in SIMCA due to 16-18 years of adaptive management interventions implemented by the site through collaborative surveillance with local enforcement agencies and international organisations (Reef Defenders).

The nearest communities are located approximately 35km from SIMCA’s main island, Lankayan. The local communities do not depend directly on SIMCA for subsistence yet they are actively involved in supporting SIMCA by reporting illegal fishing activities. The Reef Guardian’s patrols and enforcement efforts provides safety/security from infringing commercial and foreign fishers, which subsequently allow an increase in fish population and total biomass of the site that is likely beyond baseline levels. These efforts have indirectly supported sustainable livelihoods to the local communities nearby SIMCA.

SIMCA has effectively used sustainable tourism practices and Communication, Education, Public Awareness (CEPA) programmes to provide awareness and understanding to local communities and eco-tourists visiting the site. The sense of noble deed for the protection of SIMCA has made tourists interested in spending time and participating in SIMCA’s conservation programmes. Moreover, CEPA programmes reduced conflicts and instilled a sense of belonging and meaningfulness amongst local community members to protect and conserve SIMCA. SIMCA’s school awareness outreach impacted and facilitated school children in the nearby towns to create materials about marine conservation to share with other schools.

SIMCA thrives and innovates by maintaining open and cooperative management and governance through its partnerships with government agencies, academics, NGOs and local communities. It pioneered the use of technology in conservation efforts through its radar system for surveillance. SIMCA demonstrated its willingness to share resources and findings (e.g. facilities, radar monitoring, reef survey and coral bleaching data) with relevant agencies and partners at the local, state, national and international levels to advance enforcement and marine conservation efforts. With the adoption of the science-informed decision in the SIMCA’s two 5-year Plans of Actions and supplemented by Annual Reports for monitoring, research, and management planning, the threshold and measure of success of the site’s values can be evaluated.

It continuously builds staff capacity through in-house and external training (e.g. Reef Check eco-diving training, Sabah Wildlife Department Honorary Wildlife Training etc.), resulting in SIMCA personnel achieving state and international awards. SIMCA staff have been fully committed and show a high degree of professionalism throughout the Green List process. Overall, SIMCA has demonstrated a high-level standard in its interventions towards effective management.

The EAGL provides the following recommendations above SIMCA’s performance given emerging trends and external influences:
1) The site mentioned plans to update and revise the Management Plan through multi-stakeholder involvement. They may consider the spatial mapping of nearby local communities, community mapping of important ecosystems and further enhancement of social and economic programmes (e.g. jobs, livelihood activities, buy-in sustainable fisheries programme etc.), for regular monitoring.

2) The site may incorporate existing materials related to sea-level rise, such as hydro-climate projection data from the National Hydraulic Institute of Malaysia (NAHRIM), to enhance the site’s assessment of climate change impacts.

3) The site may consider diversifying funding strategies in building back from the pandemic through enhanced online fundraising strategies, partnerships with the private sector, NGOs and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other appropriate sustainable finance mechanisms.

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