Calls to restrict fishing in Sabah marine park after picture of dead shark surfaces

KOTA KINABALU: A picture of a reef shark killed by fishing nets within the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Park has sparked calls for immediate action to restrict fishing within the marine park.

In describing the incident as ``appalling,’’ Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) president Aderick Chong said action must be taken against those fishing in the protected area as it is an offence under the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park Enactment 1984.

He said that first-time offenders could be imprisoned one year or fined not exceeding RM20,000 or both while repeat offenders could face double the fine or jail or both.

"It is disheartening to see these pictures of dead sharks that must have struggled for their lives when they were caught in these nets," Chong said in a statement.

"Sharks' natural slow growth rate will further diminish the already threatened shark populations in Malaysia. Not only will it create an imbalance in our marine ecosystem, shark deaths result in a revenue loss to the country," Chong added.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park Manager Justinus Guntabid said that they were working to prevent the issue from recurring.

Chong thanked Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures for highlighting the issue and its immediate steps to work with Sabah Parks to clear the fishing nets discovered in the marine park,

``The result of this active collaboration has resulted in releasing live creatures including sharks and rays. We are also pleased to hear that the net from this incident has been completely removed," said Chong whose association spearheading a campaign to ban shark hunting and finning Sabah.

He hoped that preventive measures are implemented through joint surveillance by the dive centres, Sabah Fisheries & Fishing Trawlers Association, as well as Sabah Parks, to combat the destructive consequences of illegal fishing activities in Sabah.

A scientific study of sharks in the Semporna region carried out by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in 2012 valued a single living shark in Sabah's waters at US$815,000 to Sabah in terms of tourism revenue, compared with US$100 for its fins.

"Considering AIMS' recent survey, a total of three dead sharks would be equivalent to a loss of approximately US$2.5 million to Sabah," Chong added.