Malaysian expedition to discover medical uses of sea life

Elvina Fernandez New Straits Times 23 May 12;

CONSERVATION BID: Project will also study ecosystem and effects of climate change

KUALA LUMPUR: A SCIENTIFIC Expedition on marine bio-diversity has been launched by the the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to discover components in marine life that may lead to the development of pharmaceutical products.

Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah said the expedition was mainly aimed at collecting scientific data on marine resources, its chemical and physical environments.

"The information gathered would also provide us information on the changes in our marine ecosystem and effects of climate change."

Uggah said this in his speech, which was read by his deputy, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, at the opening of the International Bio-diversity Day at Aquaria KLCC yesterday.

The six-month expedition until October was divided into six zones which includes 21 marine parks.

Uggah said the expedition involved experts from seven universities -- Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

The expedition, he said, would be conducted in the islands off Malacca, Kedah, Pahang, Terengganu, Johor and Sabah.

"We hope to gain new findings, especially for medical or pharmaceutical purposes."

Uggah said the expedition was the ministry's effort through the Marine Parks Department in collaboration with the National Oceanography directorate of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.

The ministry also aimed to establish 50 marine parks in the country by 2020 in a bid to conserve marine life. There were currently 42 marine parks in the country.

"The Kedah state government has agreed in principle to gazette three islands -- Pulau Songsong, Pulau Bidan and Pulau Telur -- as marine parks," said Uggah.

He added that Sabah would gazette an island as a marine park while the Perak government agreed to gazette four islands in the Kepulauan Sembilan archipelago.

"Malaysian waters house 612 species of corals and is the home to more than 700 species of fish, besides being a migratory 'highway' for various marine life,"

Uggah said the ministry would continue to conserve the coastal and marine environments.

"We are also targeting to have at least 10 per cent of these marine areas protected by 2020."

He said it was a huge target to achieve since the country was surrounded by seas.

"The current global figure for protected marine areas are only slightly over one per cent which is similar to the figures here."