Bandar Seri Begawan - Freshwater ecosystems are experiencing a sharp decline in biodiversity, far greater than the worst affected terrestrial ecosystems. Should human trends remain unchanged in the demands for water and the loss of species continue at alarming rates, the opportunity to conserve much of the remaining freshwater biodiversity would cease to exist.
Hence, it is vital to manage such ecosystems through balancing human use and enforcing biodiversity protection.
This was highlighted by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Hjh Normah Suria Hayati binti Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama (Dr) Haji Awg Mohd Jamil Al-Sufri in her keynote address during the 'Biodiversity of Asian Freshwater Fishes Conference' held at Universiti Brunei. Darussalam yesterday.
"We are also aware that inland waters and freshwater biodiversity constitute a valuable natural resource in economic, cultural, aesthetic, scientific and educational terms.
"I understand that about 32,500 extant fish species are known and approximately 13,325 species or 41 per cent live in freshwater.
"The diversity is extraordinary as freshwater fishes occupy less than 0.01 per cent of the Earth's volume and thousands remain to be described, particularly in the Tropics.
"Even the discovery of the smallest fish in the world in 2006 was from Southeast Asia and I believe more new fish species will be discovered in this region.
"Currently there are 125 fish species from 63 genera, 29 families and 10 orders. Six fish species ofthe genus Dermogenys, Gastromyzon, Neogastromyzon and Ompok are found to be endemic in Brunei Darussalam. Freshwater fishes in the Sultanate are not as diverse as its neighbouring countries in Borneo," the permanent secretary said.
However, Hjh Normah Suria Hayati expressed joy in the fact that Brunei is blessed with rich pristine tropical forest and is located in one of the world's mega biodiversity hotspot. It also commits 58 per cent of its lush green tropical rainforests to the Heart of Borneo project.
"The recent declaration of a wildlife sanctuary in remote Beloit District demonstrates His Majesty's Government's commitment towards protecting and conserving the biodiversity of its flora and fauna.
The formation of the Wildlife Department and Biodiversity Innovation Centre within the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources further reinforced the government's pledge to conservation," she said.
Hjh Normah also hoped that the conference would be a start for future collaboration amongst participating countries.
She also acknowledged the success of the Asian Cypriniformes Species Inventory (ACSI) Project, which was previously held in Chiang Mai, Thailand that witnessed the participation of over 30 'fish' scientists from Asia and the USA.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin