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Zoning Plan and Conservation of Biodiversity
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Zoning Plan and Conservation of Biodiversity


A zoning plan was prepared during the Semporna Islands Project following consultations with stakeholders and was included in the draft Management Plan for the site. The Management Plan was approved prior to the park being established in June 2004, and the concept of zoning formally accepted.

Objectives of Zoning Plan

  • To promote conservation of biodiversity
  • To allow for sustainable use
  • To minimise potentially conflicting activities
  • To make management more straightforward

The Gazette Notice specified only the outer boundary of the Park and not the boundaries or regulations for the individual zones. This was intentional because it had been agreed that the recommended zones would be discussed in more detail before final decisions were made and regulations brought into force.

The proposed zoning plan has now been debated on a number of occasions with local communities and other stakeholders. For example, a questionnaire-based socio-economic study carried out by the Marine Conservation Society and Sabah Parks in 2004 included a section on the possible establishment of no-take zones.

Further discussions on the proposed zoning plan took place under the SIDP programme. Two three-day Community Workshops were held in the Sabah Parks complex in Semporna: the first in June 2005, the second in September 2005 and the third in September 2006. Each was attended by about 25-30 members of the local community, particularly the land owners and those claiming Native Customary Rights.

Three Island Boatshows were also held, the first in July 2005, the second in October 2005 and the third in February 2006. Each lasted for 4-5 days, and involved visiting all the main villages and as many as possible of the numerous groups of stilt houses on the Sebangkat/Selakan reef top. Feedback questionnaires on management proposals were completed by 102 people during the first Boatshow and 243 during the second. The concepts of Zoning and biodiversity conservation were also illustrated through the SIDP DVD, which was widely shown during the Community Census carried out from May – August 2006.

Discussing management options © Elizabeth Wood
Discussing management options © Elizabeth Wood

The Zoning Plan was also been discussed at a two Stakeholder Meetings held at the Sabah Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment in February 2006 and September 2006. These meetings were attended by Sabah Parks staff and representatives from government departments and agencies, academic institutions and NGOs.

Four main zones were recommended in the draft Plan. Two of these (Pelagic Use/Buffer Zone and General Use Zone) allow for a variety of sustainable use activities, including fishing, seaweed farming and recreation. The Sanctuary (now renamed Conservation Zone) and Preservation Zones are biodiversity conservation zones where activities such as recreation are allowed under permit, but extractive use of natural resources is not permitted (i.e. they are no-take zones). The Preservation Zone differs from the Sanctuary Zones in being ‘no-entry’, except for essential research. The aim is to keep these small representative areas completely undisturbed to act as a ‘control’ sites. Finally, there is provision for Special Management sub-zones that can be established within one of the main zones for specified purposes determined by the Management Authority in consultation with Stakeholders. The regulations will be fixed on a case-by-case basis according to the purpose for which the zone is established (e.g. protection of a breeding area or environmentally-sensitive location).

The overall zoning concept has been widely accepted by the local community and other stakeholders, including the introduction of the no-take zones, but there are concerns about the loss of valuable traditional fishing grounds and livelihoods. The latest strategy adopted is to keep the zones essentially the same size/location as proposed in the Management Plan, but to introduce them in stages in order to allow the local community and other stakeholders to adjust to the new management strategy.

It was suggested that the stages and implementation procedures should be reviewed at 6-monthly intervals and modified by the Management Authority according to need, following consultation with the Board, Local Trustees and Stakeholders: The recommended stages are shown below, but the zoning plan cannot be implemented until the issues relating to ‘island heirs’ and land claims have been resolved.


Stage 1 Land areas, Conservation Zone: Forested areas of Tetagan, Bodgaya & Boheydulang islands as defined and marked on the ground by the Management Authority.

Sea areas, Conservation Zone: Eastern part of Bodgaya lagoon. The Eastern sector is all parts of the lagoon to the east of longitude 118 o 44’ 550.


Stage 2 Additional areas:

Sea areas, Conservation Zone: Kapikan reef, Mantabuan Bank reef and the eastern sector of Mantabuan reef. The Eastern sector of Mantabuan reef is any part of the reef to the east of longitude 118 o 47’ 700.


Stage 3 Additional areas:

Conservation Zone: Church reef, Mantabuan Island and western sector of Mantabuan reef*.

Preservation Zone: Bodgaya lagoon eastern sector & Bodgaya forest east sector as defined by markers on the ground.


January 2009 Conservation Zone: Sibaun reefs* and island and western sector of Bodgaya lagoon.


* with the option of a sector of reef set aside for fishing with hook and line by the local community.



Proposed Zoning Scheme for TSMP, implemented in stages and with 2009 the target date for full implementation


Proposed Zoning Plan


Name of

Primary function(s)

Selection criteria

Principal regulations


Pelagic use/ buffer zone

Sustainable use

Open water
500m from reef crest or 50m+ water depth

a) Open access.
b) Pelagic fishing by local community under permit.


General use zone

Sustainable use

Areas of reef and land important for local use

a) Open access.
b) Use of living resources by local community under permit.


Conservation zone

Conservation of biodiversity.

Limited, non-extractive use.

Representative areas of high biodiversity importance.

a) Access with permit.
b) No take zone except for stock that has been cultivated or ranched under permit.
c) Recreational use under permit.


Preservation zone

Preservation of natural state

Sensitive and representative areas of high conservation value.

a) No access expect for limited monitoring under permit.












Construction and development


Fishing and collection of marine resources


Seaweed farming


Mariculture and sea ranching


Hunting of birds and terrestrial animals



Cultivation and harvesting of plants and fruits




Recreation (land and sea)





Allowed with a permit, which may specify restrictions


Not allowed


Not allowed except in accordance with customary rights








Copyright ©2006 Semporna Islands Darwin Project 2005 - 2008

Designed and compiled by Elizabeth Wood & Andy Davies