January 11, 2016

Ecotourism in Penang could Save Mangrove Forests and Fish

Ecotourism in Penang could Save Mangrove Forests and Fish

Coastal development and deforestation threatening the Penang wilderness could be kept at bay in areas where ecotourism flourishes. Photo Credit: Califlier001 via Wikipedia

Tourists have enjoyed spotting the rare birds and migratory fowl of Penang’s mangrove forests and mud flats for some time, but most ecotourism in Penang has been focused on the island section of the state.  Penang’s Chief Minister is now hoping to promote more tourism like this on Mainland Penang.

Industry , economy and politics in Malaysia are often directly opposed to environmental sustainability, so the prospect of growing Penang’s mainland ecotourism industry is a bright one.  The attraction here is the wildlife, making ecotourism an industry that favours nature conservation and often facilitates environmental education and awareness.

That mangroves and mudflats are the focus of this initiative is further good news.  Mangroves and mudflats provide breeding grounds for fish critical to food security and ecological balance, they filter out toxins and absorb excess carbon from the environment, they decrease flood risk, and they provide many other critical functions to a healthy environment.

The ill-effects of mangrove and mudflat loss are being felt all around Malaysia.  Just last month, another news article testified that fisheries were going out of business thanks to pollution and the removal of mangrove forests.

“Besides low supply of fishes and prawns, it is also becoming increasingly difficult to get crab, seashells and clams,” said Consumer Association of Penang president Mohamed Idris in a recent press statement.  Before so many mangroves were removed, fishermen could get between 50 and 60kg of seafood daily.  “Now, they are lucky to get between 4kg and 5kg daily,” Idris lamented.  Idris was speaking of fisheries in Perak, just south of Penang, but this problem is going on all across Malaysia, and has been for a decade or more.

Despite the critical importance of mangrove forests (and other Malaysian environments), short-sighted economic and developmental decisions are routinely made in favour of industry over environment.  Bird watching and mud flat tours give Penang a solid economical reason to preserve mangrove forests, providing these delicate environments a leg to stand on in what is too often a world that heeds only revenue increases and growth charts.

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