Communities, Coasts, Islands and Seas

Co-Creating Living Seascapes


The aim this project is to support the appropriate recognition and scaling up of the number of locally managed marine areas on Sabah’s coasts and islands and to better protect biodiversity in Sabah’s seas.

FS is working to achieve this goal by exploring several areas of collaboration, including:

  • Government-community partnerships to better protect the Lower Kinabatangan Segama Wetlands (LKSW) Ramsar Site from ecological threats such as upstream pollution and overfishing by outsiders.

  • International partnerships with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the UN Development Programme and organizations supporting community conservation to implement work in the LKSW Ramsar Site.

  • A multi-stakeholder group of civil society organizations under the auspices of the Sabah Shark Protection Association, whose stated aims are to ensure the conservation of sharks and rays in Sabah’s waters.

  • Collaboration with the Legal Innovation Team to better integrate legal analysis into the ongoing discussions in Sabah about the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity.




Sabah forms an integral part of the Coral Triangle, the world’s most marine biodiverse region. Sabah’s coasts and islands contain over 75% of Malaysia’s coral reefs, which give life to a wide variety of soft and hard corals, sponges, echinoderms (such as star fish and sea cucumbers), mollusks, crustacean, sea snakes, turtles, and many fish species, including an array of sharks.


Yet unsustainable fishing practices - some of it illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) - has led to the degradation of Sabah’s reefs and the depletion of marine biodiversity. For example, a third of all shark species in the Coral Triangle are nearly extinct and species such as the hammerhead, of which Sabah is one of the last population strongholds, have declined by up to 90% in the last 50 years.


This negatively impacts the resilience of the ecosystem and weakens Sabah’s food security, with immediate effects on small-scale fishers (currently about 1.5% of Sabah’s population) who depend on local catches for subsistence and income. Solutions are being found to the above challenges in the form of locally managed marine areas that are areas characterized by local ownership, use and/or control. LMMAs are also often managed according to the traditional tenure and management practices of the region, whereas traditional MPAs are typically designated via a top-down approach with little if any local input.


Additional Information:


The Legal Innovation Team has developed a brief outlining law and policy issues relating to water resources that can be found here: Environmental Law and Policy in Sabah - Vol. 7 - Water Resources

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