The establishment of fisheries refugia as a new approach to sustainable management of fisheries in Malaysian waters
The marine fisheries resources worldwide are facing depletion but traditional management methods may not be adequate to overcome this problem. A new fishery management approach which focuses on protecting the critical stages in the life cycle of the selected marine species is presented in this paper. The fisheries refugia concept focuses on temporal and a spatially defined marine or coastal area in which specific management measures are implemented to sustain the targeted species. This concept was initiated by SEAFDEC-UNEP-GEF in the South East Asia region and are participated by six member countries namely Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. In Malaysia, two sites were selected for this project which is the lobster refugia (Panulirus spp. and Thenus orientalis) in Tanjung Leman, Johor and the tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) refugia at Kuala Baram, Miri, Sarawak. This paper discusses the activities carried out to establish these two refugia. These activities include resource surveys of lobsters and tiger prawns at different life stages (larvae, juvenile and adult) and socio-economic profiling of fishers communities at both sites. Several stakeholder consultation sessions were also held with fishers and local agencies to promote the refugia concept and gather feedbacks on the implementation of the new management approach. Two information centers were set up at Tanjung Leman and Kuala Baram, Miri with the objectives of disseminating information regarding the fisheries refugia project and its benefits to the stakeholders. Likewise, in collaboration with the local television station RTM, two fisheries refugia documentaries were produced and broadcast nationwide. The targeted outcome of this project is to have these two sites gazetted as fisheries refugia so that the wild resources of lobsters and tiger prawns are sustainably managed through spatial and seasonal closure during the critical stages of their life cycle.