KOTA KINABALU: An environmental NGO wants an immediate halt to shark hunting in Sabah to enable a detailed study on the remaining population of the marine creatures in waters off the state.
The Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) said a one year moratorium on shark hunting would also be in line with the Sabah government’s call for a similar ban in 2012.
“There is an urgent need to strengthen shark protection under Malaysian conservation and fisheries laws,” SSPA chairman Aderick Chong said following reports of British tourists spotting shark landings near the diving haven of Pulau Mabul in Sabah’s east coast.
“Given the absolute importance of sharks to Sabah’s marine ecosystem, the continuing of shark hunting in Sabah is nothing more than extreme recklessness,” he added.
Chong noted that most shark species were endangered and Sabah could not afford to lose more due to their hunting.
He said sharks were vulnerable to over-exploitation because they are slow-growing, mature at a late age, and have relatively low productivity.
“Therefore, their populations are slow to reproduce and may not recover once overfished,” he added.
He said shark conservation was crucial for the diving industry in the east coast. A scientific study of marine creatures in the Semporna region by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) a few years ago valued a single living shark at US$815,000 (RM3.6mil) to Sabah in terms of tourism revenue, compared with US$100 (RM440) for its fins.
Chong said apart from the economic benefits from dive tourism, sharks help to stabilise the marine ecosystem and keep our oceans healthy.
“Sharks also help maintain the health of coral reefs, protect vital sea habitats and even prevent climate change,” he added.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the photographs taken by the British tourists of the shark landings at Pulau Mabul justified the need for hunting the marine creatures.
He said the state government would continue to pursue the ban through amendments in the Fisheries Act.