Working Visit for Malaysian Marine Spatial Planning (MMSP)

By Wan Izatul Asma Wan Talaat

Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is basically an ecosystem-based approach and a public policy process for a society to better determine how the ocean and the coasts are sustainably used and protected – for now and for the future generations. The MMSP is a joint-project between Fujian Institute for Sustainable Ocean, Xiamen University, China (FISO-XMU) and Institute of Oceanography and Environment, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Malaysia (INOS-UMT) funded by China Oceanic Development Foundation (CODF). The pilot project was selected to focused on two districts of Kuala Terengganu and Kuala Nerus, which will be the first MSP for Malaysia under the recently-launched National Coastal Zone Physical Plan-2 that has put MSP as a thrust action. The preliminary groundworks on MSP along the 225km-Terengganu’s coastal stretch was first initiated by UMT and WWF-Malaysia way back in 2016 leading to this 2-year pilot MMSP project, which commenced on 1 December 2021.

On 11-15 March 2023, INOS-UMT hosted a long overdue working visit due to the pandemic by FISO, XMU and another partner, Ocean Environment Science and Technology Ltd (OEST), as well as Sanya Coral Reef Ecology Institute. The delegation was led by Professor Xiongzhi Xue, the Dean of FISO-XMU, while OEST was represented by Mr Chunhong Fang, the Deputy General Manager. The Sanya Coral Reef Ecology Institute was represented by its Director, Dr Chuanliang Wu.

The working visit mostly filled with site surveys to coastal areas in the pilot study and river boat cruise along the Terengganu to validate the points marked in the draft MSP maps drawn prior to the visit.

The first physical stakeholders’ focus group discussion for the project, the UMT-XMU Joint Workshop on Kuala Terengganu-Kuala Nerus MSP, was also convened at UMT campus by Professor Wan Izatul Asma Wan Talaat, the Head of Centre for Ocean Governance, who leads the project in Malaysia. Apart from the researchers from both sides, most participants present were from Kuala Terengganu City Council, the local authority for both the districts in the MSP project. Other major stakeholders involved were from Terengganu State Economic Planning Unit, Terengganu State Town and Country Planning Department (PLANMalaysia@Terengganu), and Terengganu Water Resources Board. The workshop was then followed with the Seminar on MSP to provide highlights on the MSP Project as well as to promote the marine science works in all the three partners institutions, INOS-UMT, FISO-XMU and OEST.

A closing discussion was held at the end of the 4 days working visit to surmise the findings of the site surveys and the stakeholders’ workshop. The discussion subsequently concluded with several agreed upcoming activities for the pilot project as well as future projects to complement and facilitate the MSP plan under the UN Ocean Decade. This Kuala Terengganu-Kuala Nerus MSP will pave the path for MSP in Malaysia and serve as a catalyst for ecosystem-based approach in managing our coastal and marine resources.