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Country Overview

Malaysia consists of thirteen states and three federal territories with a total land area of 329,847 square kilometres separated by the South China Sea into two main regions: Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysia Borneo namely, Sabah and Sarawak. Of these, only the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia falls within the boundaries of the Bay of Bengal LME. This coastline traces the eastern boundary of the Andaman Sea and the Straits of Malacca, and is characterized by mangroves, estuaries, coral reefs, sea grass beds, algae beds, mudflats, beaches and small islands (Omar et al., 2003). The coastline stretches approximately 1100 km from north to south, beginning at the Thai border and ending at the Malaysia-Singapore border (Omar et al., 2003).

MPAs in Malaysia

Malaysia’s marine park system is relatively well developed and managed. MPAs in Malaysia were first established in 1983. In response to serious declines in marine resources, the government initially began declaring marine protected areas in order to enhance fisheries resources (DMPM, 2012). Today, the primary goals of marine parks are to “protect, conserve and manage in perpetuity representative marine ecosystems of significance, particularly coral reefs and their associated flora and fauna, so that they remain undamaged for future generations” (DMPM, 2012). Marine Parks in Malaysia are mainly administered by the Marine Park Department of Malaysia. However, there are also other types of protected area elsewhere in the country that protect the marine environment. These include five state parks in Sabah, and three marine parks in Sarawak.

Marine Parks in Kedah state is the only marine park within the boundary of BOBLME. This marine park is located in the northern part of the Straits of Malacca, and consists of four different islands and their surrounding marine ecosystems (Pulau Payar, Pulau Lembu, Pulau Kaca and Palau Segantang). The map above shows the distribution of marine protected area in Malaysia and MPA database lists the marine protected areas in Malaysia (BOBLME region). The area was declared a marine park in 1994 under the Fisheries Act 1985 (Amended 1991, DMPM, 2012). Prior to this declaration, which made it illegal to fish within the park, the marine park served as fishing grounds for nearby communities, who used drift nets, purse-seines, long-lines and bottom traps to obtain their catch (Lim, 1998).

The Fisheries Act is the primary piece of legislation used to designate MPAs throughout Malaysia. MPAs were initially designated as ‘fisheries prohibited areas’ under the 1963 Fisheries Act (DMPM, 2012). The act was amended in 1985, in part to allow for the conversion of ‘fishery prohibited areas’ into ‘marine parks’ (DMPM, 2012). The updated legislation also introduced more stringent, and comprehensive regulations govern these protected areas.

Governance of marine parks in Malaysia corresponds to a three-tiered system, involving the Federal Government, State Government, and Local Authority (Isnain, 2010). Policies formulated at the federal level broadly guide national development, while the State Government is responsible for overseeing land matters on islands that are adjacent to marine parks. Local authorities, such as district and land offices, are responsible for the implementation of policies, as well as managing development activities (Isnain, 2010).

Historically, marine parks in Peninsular Malaysia were managed by the Fisheries Department under the Ministry of Agriculture (DMPM, 2012). In 2004, the Marine Park Malaysia was moved to a different ministry with the creation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and given the responsibility for managing the federal marine parks throughout the country (DMPM 2012).

  • BOBLME. 2011. Status of Marine Protected Areas and Fish Refugia in the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem. BOBLME – 2011 – Ecology – 10
  • Coral Triangle Atlas. 2013. The Coral Triangle Atlas. (Accessed October 2013).
  • DMPM. 2012. Kompendium Data dan Maklumat Asas 2012. Department of Marine Park Malaysia.
  • Isnain, Irwan. 2010. Malaysia Marine Protected Areas. Presentation at the 2010 6th ICRI East Asia Regional Workshop. 26th–28th June 2010, Phuket, Thailand. Available online at
  • Omar, I.H. et al. 2003. National report of Malaysia on the formulation of a transboundary diagnostic analysis and preliminary framework of a strategic action programme for the Bay of Bengal. Prepared for FAO and the BOBLME Programme. 88 pages
  • Lim, Li Ching. 1998. Carrying capacity assessment of Pulau Payar Marine Park, Malaysia. Produced under the Bay of Bengal Programme. Madras, India. 139 pages.
  • UP-MSI, ABC, ARCBC, DENR, ASEAN.2002. Marine Protected Areas in Southeast Asia. ASEAN Regional Center for Biodiversity Conservation, Department of Environment and Natural resources, Los Banos, Philippines. 142 pp.
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