SUCCESSFUL MANAGEMENT: THE MATANG MANGROVE FOREST RESERVE

The Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve in the State of Perak, Malaysia, is arguably the best example of a sustainably managed mangrove ecosystem and demonstrates that an effective balance can exist between the harvest of natural resources and conservation. This reserve, established in 1902, covers an area of about 500 km2 making it the largest area of mangroves in Peninsular Malaysia. Approximately 73% is considered productive forest while the remaining portion is classified as non-productive or protected. The existing management plan regulates forestry, fishing, and aquaculture activities and only non-destructive practices are permitted. Harvesting of mangrove timber for poles, firewood, and charcoal production, occurs on a 30 year rotation cycle (Chong, 2006). Selective felling is carried during year 15 and year 20 and then a final clear-felling occurs during year 30. When necessary, re-vegetation programmes are implemented two years after the final felling. The annual value of charcoal between 2000 and 2009 was estimated to be RM 27.2 million (equivalent to approx. US$ 8.9 million) while the annual value of poles was estimated at RM 2.6 million (equivalent to approx. US$ 847 thousand). Fisheries in the Matang Mangroves are also an important contributor to the Malaysian economy. Fish cage and cockle aquaculture are allowed, and cockle farming is estimated to have an annual market value of RM 32.45 million (equivalent to approx. US$ 10.7 million). Most of the natural resources obtained from the forest are exported to markets in the states of Selangor, Penang, and Kedah. This case provides evidence that mangrove forests can be conserved and enjoyed while still providing reliable long-term but reasonably high economic return for local and larger communities. It shows that when well-managed, mangroves can ensure sustainable yields of products (numbers are from the Malaysian Timber Council, 2009).