In June, Malaysia will officially establish the biggest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the country.
The Tun Mustapha Park will occupy 1.6 million hectares of seascape, including 50 islands, off the northern tip of Sabah in East Malaysia.
One of Asia’s best diving havens, the region contains the second largest concentration of coral reefs in Malaysia.
Malaysia's Minister for Tourism, Culture & Environment, Datuk Seri Masidi, says that Tun Mustapha and Malaysia's two other major MPAs, Tun Sakaran and Tunku Abdul Rahman, would also become shark sanctuaries.
According to Masidi, sharks are a crucial aspect of Sabah's nature based tourism industry. "Shark species are vital to the diving business, which generates about RM380 million (US$9.4 million) per year. We will lose the shark population in 10 years if stakeholders continue serving shark fin soup," he claimed.
The concept for the park is to be a multiple use, managed area, which includes areas for strict protection, artisanal fishing and commercial fishing among others, and is expected to be a major draw card for tourism.