Humphead wrasse release at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

Fourty-five humphead wrasse fish (Cheilinus  undulatus) were released at Manukan Island, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP) on Friday 30th July with the joint involvement of Department of Fisheries Sabah, Sabah Parks, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and WWF-Malaysia. Scubazoo cameraman Simon Enderby and photographer Adam Broadbent were present to film and photograph the event.

The release of these fish coincided with the annual Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) Tri-National committee meeting. The committee works with governments in Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia on conservation and management of networks of marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, and threatened, charismatic and migratory species such as the humphead wrasse.

The iconic humphead wrasse fish, or ‘mameng’ as it is known locally, is listed as an Endangered Species (IUCN 2004) and the international trade of this fish is controlled under the CITES treaty. A  survey conducted by Department of Fisheries Sabah and WWF in 2008 found that wild populations of humphead wrasse were declining in Sabah. The report led to a stop in the export of humphead wrasse out of Sabah from 1 January 2010.

Since the export has been stopped, the Department of Fisheries Sabah and WWF — with support from Sabah Parks, and UMS, and funding from USAID Coral Triangle Support Partnership — have implemented a programme to buy back remaining stocks of humphead wrasse from local Sabah traders. To date, a total of 812 ‘mameng’ have been released into undisclosed protected areas throughout Sabah. The purpose is to repopulate Sabah’s reefs with these ecologically critical apex predators. UMS has assisted in tagging and taking DNA samples of the released humphead wrasses for later analysis.

It is hoped that the 45 released humphead wrasse will breed and grow to become icons of TARP and eventually spill over to populate reefs outside of the park.

Watch the event film below:

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