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Shark crusader prefers all sharks be protected

4th January, 2019


KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) welcomed the news that the federal government agreed to include four sharks and two ray species under the federal’s protection list. Its chairman, Aderick Chong in a statement yesterday, however, preferred all shark species should be listed for protection under the federal or state laws.

In doing so, it would be easier to enforce and later stage, the government could remove the common sharks from the protection list.

The protection of the sharks are crucial to Sabah tourism industry as according to study, the live sharks contributed over RM200 million to the diving industry.

“We welcome the news that the federal protection for the four shark and two ray species is in progress. “We can only say we look forward to the protection of these species and thank the government for their initiative.

“To further add to their protection, we urge the state to protect all sharks to make it easier to enforce later. We will also welcome a ban against shark fin trade or soup,” Chong said.

Chong is hoping to make Sabah a dive haven with sharks not only in Sipadan and Mabul islands, and to achieve that we should treat sharks as wildlife and not food.

He was asked on the move taken by the federal government to include four species of sharks and two ray species in the list to be protected under the federal Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulations 1999, Fisheries Act 1985.

Fisheries Department director-general Datuk Munir Mohd Nawi confirmed that the proposal by the Sabah government was now pending approval from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC).

The shark species are the great hammerhead shark, the smooth hammerhead shark, the winghead shark and the oceanic whitetip shark while the rays are the giant oceanic manta and reef manta.

All these species are abundant in the waters of dive havens like Sipadan and Pulau Mabul in Sabah, where there have been recent reports of sharks being hunted.

Munir said the Sabah state Fisheries Department had proposed to list the species for protection. “We received the proposal from Sabah on May 28 last year. It was brought to the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry’s legal division for further action.

“Currently, it is at the AGC. The ministry receives a weekly report from the AGC and the matter is currently still under its review.

“Both the Sabah and the federal governments have agreed to the proposal and it’s just a matter of time,” Munir told the Star.

Sabah had suggested for the species to be protected since 2017 before formally submitting a proposal last year. Currently, in the category of sharks, only whale sharks and all rays from the “Pristidae” family or sawfish are categorised as “threatened species” under the Act.

It is prohibited to exploit these species and they are not allowed to be caught, sold, exported, transported, consumed, kept or harassed.

According to the Fisheries Department data, Sabah waters have 48 out of the 70 shark species in Malaysia and 65 out of 85 ray species, which shows the significance of the state as a habitat for these animals.

Sharks and stingrays are usually caught unintentionally in the form of bycatch by trawlers, which account for up to 70% of catches, according to the Sabah Fisheries Department.

Sharks and rays are also caught using other methods such as gill net, fish traps, longline and handline fishing. It was also reported that in 2017, 697 tonnes of shark (0.43%) and 1,507 tonnes of stingray (0.93%) catches were recorded by the department.

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