Malaysia's rich and diverse marine life is threatened by a variety of human activities such as overfishing, development on land, and the use of destructive fishing methods. While policies and policy statements on the need to conserve marine biodiversity exist and laws protecting marine biodiversity have been enacted, the threats persist and the decline in marine biodiversity continues. This is due to a number of factors, namely, difficulties in translating policies into action, inadequacy of the scope of existing laws, problems in enforcing current regulations, less focus on marine biodiversity vis-à-vis terrestrial biodiversity, and lack of awareness concerning marine biodiversity among policymakers. No single action could address the wide range of problems afflicting Malaysia's marine biodiversity. A more comprehensive approach in the form of a national marine biodiversity action plan comprising national, state, and local actions is urgently needed to address the continuous decline of marine biodiversity and effect a “quantum leap” in marine biodiversity conservation in Malaysia.
MARINE BIODIVERSITY BEYOND THE CLICHÉS
Much has been said about Malaysia's marine biodiversity and biodiversity in general so much so that many of the statements have become clichés: Malaysia is among the twelve megadiversity countries in the world; Malaysia is located within the coral triangle with high coral and marine life diversity (Table 13.1); Malaysia has had a National Biodiversity Policy since 1998; and that since 1994, forty areas have been designated as marine parks. These platitudes however, belie some more important questions concerning Malaysia's marine biodiversity. What is the true extent of Malaysia's marine life? What are the threats? How successful have Malaysia's policies and laws been in protecting the marine biodiversity? What future plans does Malaysia have for conserving the marine biodiversity?
Why does Malaysia conserve marine biodiversity? The 2005 Millennium Ecosystems Assessment categorizes the functions provided by ecosystems in the coastal zone as regulating, provisioning, cultural, and supporting, and these are summarized in Table 13.2.