Privately Managed Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area

Privately Managed Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA) is the first privately managed marine conservation area in Malaysia. Managed by Reef Guardian with aim to conserve marine biodiversity through promote low impact ecotourism. We generate incomes through ecotourism activities to support sea turtle conservation, stop destructive fishing and promote coral reef conservation.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Illegal fishing occurred within and outside of conservation area. Fishers carried out dynamite fishing that damaging coral reef, sodium cyanide that stunt Napoleon wrasses and groupers for the Live Reef Fish Food Trade and deployed bottom gill nets at the reef edge that many are trapping sharks, rays and sea turtle. Agricultural run-offs from the mainland that reach SIMCA have the potential to stress and damage coral reefs. Excessive input of freshwater from rivers following heavy rainstorms may also contribute to the death of corals and shallow water organisms within SIMCA.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

This is the first marine conservation area that privately managed and the operation costs are fully depend on ecotourism activities and in kind supports from tour operators without rely on government funds. The idea is to have a conservation agency, the Reef Guardian mainly control human activities within the conservation area, while allow the recovery and rehabitation of coral reef and fish stock. Conservation fee will be collected from every visitor to the conservation area to support the operation and management costs. Visitor or tourist are engage to conservation works that Reef Guardian implementing through briefing, video show, reading materials at the information center and sea turtle monitoring works. The staff of Reef Guardian are trained and certified as Honorary Wildlife Warden to stop and control poaching and illegal fishing within marine conservation area. Thus enforcement work is not entirely depends of government enforcement agencies. Furthermore, any intruder to the conservation area can be detected by the radar tracking system that monitor regularly to reduce poaching and illegal fishing within SIMCA.
About You
Reef Guardian Sdn Bhd
Section 1: About You
First Name

Fung Chen

Last Name



Reef Guardian


, SB

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Reef Guardian Sdn Bhd

Organization Phone


Organization Address

PPM 255 Elopura 90000 Sandakan Sabah Malaysia

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, SB

Would you like to participate in the MIF Opportunity 2010?

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

The conservation works that Reef Guardian implemented since 2004 show a few measurable outcomes to our partners and tourists:
1.The annual sea turtle nesting improved nearly 200% from 2004 to 2009. It show great afford of protecting the sea turtle by increase nesting attempt (reduce human disturbance). As tourists are contributing conservation fee for the monitoring work, they felt engaged and privilege to the achievement.
2.Dive tourists feel safer with the protection that provided. The intensive sea patrol that carried out since 2005 reduced dynamite fishing within and outside conservation area. For example, in 2005 dive tourist could record average of 4 explosives while diving, but in 2007 zero explosion was heard.
3.The recovery of coral reef habitat and fish population enhancing tourism business.


Partnership: To strengthen enforcement work, we partnered with federal and state government enforcement agencies such as Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency, Marine Police, Special Field Force to carry out regular sea patrol to reduce illegal fishing.

5 years conservation plan: We drafted 5 years conservation plan from 2010-2014 that stated conservation works that need to be implemented to achieve aim and objectives. It is a business plan that aim to leverage fund from partners.

Education: we produce newsletter, posters, flyers, provide briefing or presentation to tourists, students, government enforcement agencies to raise conservation awareness.

Leadership and capacity building: We provide training to staff to improve monitoring and enforcement work. Improve leadership skill.


1. Annual sea turtle nesting increased nearly 200% since 2004.
2. The illegal fishing within SIMCA reduced to almost zero fishing activities in daytime.
3. The number of tourist visited increased. Thus it generating more income for Reef Guardian
4.Getting partnership with international organizations and received funds worth US$120,000 to strengthen sea turtle monitoring work and enhance enforcement capacity.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

For this project to be success in the next three year, we need to make sure we have a self-sustain financing mechanism plus a strong leadership to achieve aims and objectives.

Year 1: The cost of enforcement, however, is high, Reef Guardian aims to formalize its collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Marine Police through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to share the costs of enforcement. In year 1 we will need to strengthen the management capacity of Reef Guardian to improve the effectiveness of management such as a fundraiser to manage the fund raising activities.

Year 2: Conduct baseline survey of conservation awareness of environmental managers. This activity aims to increase the conservation awareness of environmental managers about land-based pollution that may threaten marine ecosystems and species. The immediate survey is to gather baseline information on the level of knowledge managers have about the impact land-based activities have on marine ecosystems. Results from this survey will serve as a benchmark for the education needs of stakeholders, and will be used to publish environmental education materials.

Year 3: We will concentrate on finding new avenues for sourcing funds from stakeholders, including the public, visitors to SIMCA, and NGOs. Fund-raising initiatives will include: review conservation fee (currently conservation fee is US$6.5/day per visitor); implement “Adopt-A –nest” program; implement “Adopt-A-Reef” program; and Sale of Reef Guradian merchandise. Furthermore in year 3, Reef Guardian will disseminate its conservation message through communication materials such as billboards and posters to inform stakeholders and the public about threats to marine species and habitats. Some education topics include threats to coral reef habitats from dynamite fishing, and threats to sea turtle populations from illegal harvesting of turtle eggs. The conservation awareness information will be targeted at public consumers.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Three important components that will prevent project to be successes:
1.Lack of Leadership: Leadership is important to inspire worker, tourist, stakeholders, partners about conservation worked needed. Leader is to raise public concern on why conservation of sea turtle or other marine life needed. Giving education to general public about what conservation and marine protected area is about. Without leadership in the organization, the aims , objectives and meeting the timelines for projects will be hard to achieve. Leader with passion and determination in doing conservation work, understand the needs for public, stakeholder, community will lead to the success of the project.
2.Inadequate funding: Adequate funding is needed to keep the project running. Economy downturn and reduce tourist visiting to SIMCA will reduce overall Reef Guardian income.
3.Climate change that alter normal rain fall and increase river ran-off event that will impact to the shallow coral reef and it significant will affecting tourism activities thus revenue to run conservation works.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Reef Guardian

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

The partnership with Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) is crucial for the success of the project. Sabah Wildlife Department empowered and provided training to staff for better management of the conservation area. Partnership with the resort operator is also important, the resort operator (Lankayan Island Dive Resort) have been providing in kind donation such as meals, accommodation, utilities to Reef Guardian staff.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

1.Promote leadership in the team
2.Business plan for able to self-financially sustain.
3.Strengthening partnership with government, NGOs and private sectors (resort operators) and donors.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA) covers an area of approximately 467km2 in the Sulu Sea within the Coral Triangle, which is the epicenter of global marine biodiversity . It is includes the three islands of Lankayan, Billean, and Tegaipil. The three islands enclosed with beautiful shallow coral reef house hundred to thousand of species. In 1970s, before the establishment of SIMCA, the reefs around 3 islands were heavy exploited by dynamite fisher, fish trawler trawled near the reefs drowning sea turtle, and abandon fish nets in the reef. About 1980s Haji Bambi, a Filipino settling down on Lankayan, and starting with reef fish cage culture. It take not too long for Haji Bambi to realize the damages that created by destructive fishing activities. Haji Bambi started to chase fish bombers away, warning and kept the fisher bombers to get too close to the island. He realized that he couldn’t do this alone. Until Haji Bambi met Mr. Ricky Chin and Mr. Kenneth Chung and the idea of developing the area to be tourist site evolved. Mr. Kenneth Chung, the bigger investor invited his friend Mr. Don Baker drafted a management plan and proposed to the State Government of Sabah to gazette the three islands as marine conservation area. The state of government Sabah realized the need to protect the coral reef, and habitats for important marine species and finally SIMCA was officially declared as Marine Conservation Area on 3rd December 2001. However, the government of Sabah and Mr. Kenneth Chung foresee the need to have a conservation body to fully responsible for SIMCA’s conservation work. Thus Reef Guardian was established in 2004 specify for overall management and operation of SIMCA.

In 2004, Achier Chung joined Reef Guardian as a marine biologist. Graduated from University Malaysia Sarawak, completed her thesis on swimming behavior of Hawksbill turtle hatchling. Her love for turtle and the ocean lead her to take up the challenge. Her immediate assignment was to improve the sea turtle hatchery and monitoring program. With just 3 staff available, it took 3 months to established a proper sea turtle nesting and monitoring program. After 6 months on the island, Achier Chung realized the need to strengthen enforcement work around SIMCA especially to eliminating the illegal fishing practices such as fish bombing that destroy coral reefs and trawlers that drowning sea turtle. She realized that without proper enforcement in place, SIMCA will be a “paper park”. Achier Chung earned partnerships with international organizations through fundings to strengthen enforcement and sea turtle monitoring work in SIMCA since 2006. Until today, the number of staff raised to 11 workers, with 70% are trained and certified as Honorary Wildlife Warden.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Mr. Kenneth Chung is a conservation minded business man. His aim is to conserve some of Sabah s islands through creating eco-friendly resorts that are focused on minimizing tourism impact. Tourism impacts are minimized through the creation of a sewage treatment – the Hydroponics Treatment System that reduce direct discharge of wastewater to the sea. His concern on the coral reef is enormous, he making sure “no anchor” policy applied within SIMCA.

Haji Bambi is a naturalist and love the sea so much. Haji Bambi spent at least 15 years tried to stop dynamite fishing around Lankayan Island. He does not have any degree in marine science and biology but he know everything under the water from what to see and where to find it.

Achier Chung is a turtle biologist. She took up the challenge managing SIMCA for the past 6 years, spent at least 10 months in a year on the island working day and night with average 12 hours a day to keep the program running.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Personal contact at Changemakers

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer