THE BANNING of sharks fin soup consumption in the country is not the only way to put an end to the shark fin trade, as public awareness and conservation efforts are equally important.
The Fisheries Department of Malaysia believes in the concept of empowering society by educating people and raising their awareness in their bid to conserve sharks in the country.
As part of efforts to achieve this, the department launched the national “Say No to Shark Fin Consumption” campaign.
Speaking at the state-level campaign in Perak, Marine Resource Department Management and Conversation Head Mohd Noor Noordin stressed it is the department’s long-term goal to control the supply chain and discourage demand for sharks fins in Perak.
“We want to start by educating fishermen about the importance of shark conservation, down to the fishmongers, restaurant managers, hoteliers, and eventually the public.
“Enforcing a ban is not the solution, because the main concern is how we can ensure sustainable fishing practices to conserve and manage the population of sharks in Malaysia,” he told a press conference after the launching of the state-level campaign at Aeon Seri Manjung recently.
Mohd Noor also said, in many parts of the world, people still ignore the impact of shark finning and this eventually causes great harm to the sustainability of marine biodiversity.
“That is why the strategy of consistently educating the public is our best way to discourage the cruel act of shark finning in Malaysia.
“Other countries like Sri Lanka and India are targeting sharks specifically for their fins, while the rest of the shark’s body is thrown back into the ocean.
“Here in Malaysia, sharks end up as a by-catch in our fishing nets, as they are not the main fishing target,” he said.
Mohd Noor said the department has published the “National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks” as a national guideline to conserving and managing sharks in 2014.
“We have also included a condition that bans shark finning in all licences for fishermen two years ago.
“At the same time, the government also banned the serving of sharks fin soup in all official functions in 2014 as a step to reduce public demand,” he said.
Asked if these steps have effectively slowed down the demand for sharks fin soup among Malaysians, Mohd Noor said it is still too early to determine if there has been a decrease in demand.
“Two years is still too short a time for us to study the effects of these new laws.
“But I believe that if given a few more years, we will be able to see whether there is significant change in the demand for sharks fin in Malaysian market,” he said.
Meanwhile, Perak Fisheries Department Director Dr Bah Piyan Tan said the department recorded 2,114 tonnes of sharks caught last year, with 15 shark species identified.
“So far this year, we have recorded 660 tonnes in catches, most of it from Hilir Perak, Manjung, as well as Larut, Matang and Selama,” he said.
Bah Piyan said the banning of shark fin consumption in official functions is a proactive measure taken by the government, which is equally concerned about the issue.
“I would like to urge those in the private sector, especially restaurants and hotels, to support our campaign by saying no to sharks fin consumption and stop serving sharks fin soup,” he said.
Pasir Panjang Assemblyman Datuk Rashidi Ibrahim was present to launch the state-level campaign, jointly organised by the Fisheries Department Malaysia, the National Oceanography Directorate, Sabah Fisheries Department and Aquaria KLCC.
During the campaign, various activities were held, including an informational exhibition on shark conservation, colouring competition, and the handing over of promotional material for the campaign to organisations in Perak that support the campaign.
Perak is the second state in the country to launch the “Say No to Shark Fin Consumption” campaign after Sarawak in August.