KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) has come out with three key strategies focusing on the effective conservation of the species by 2030.
SSPA chairman Aderick Chong said the initiative was necessary as sharks and rays in Sabah's waters are not legally protected and shark landings have increased significantly over the last three decades.
"SSPA members are pooling their expertise to implement the three key strategic activities and the overall goal over the next year is to strengthen the conservation of sharks and rays in Malaysia," he said.
To achieve this, the SSPA will work with relevant government departments to increase the level of legal protection for sharks and rays at various levels and promoting their long-term protection at the national level.
"Law and policy reform will be supported by research, which will include new studies on the market value of these species and whether these landings are from targeted fisheries or by catch.
"Research will also look at the market value for shark and ray related eco-tourism," Chong said.
"Under the awareness focus, the association would organise campaigns that support law and policy reform by engaging targeted audiences – ranging from policy makers to students and fishing communities – about the biological and financial importance of sharks and rays," he said in a statement Monday.
As its strategic activities start to produce results, Chong said that SSPA plans to hold a gathering of decision makers in March next year to agree to a "Vision 2030" and establish a roadmap to ensure the sustainability of sharks and rays in Sabah's waters and beyond.
SSPA comprises Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Malaysian Nature Society (Sabah branch), Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Scuba Junkie SEAS, Shark Stewards, Scubazoo, Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC) and WWF-Malaysia.
Chong said there was a need for greater transparency by Malaysia in the monitoring of the shark and ray trade, following a recent report that point to Malaysia being an active player in the Southeast Asia region for both shark fin and meat trading.
The Shark and Ray Trade in Singapore report published in May 2017 cites Malaysia as a major trading partner to the island nation.
Malaysia was reported to rank fifth (2005-2007) and sixth (2012-2-14) in a list of destinations for Singapore's shark fin exports by trade quantity.
Malaysia also served as a source of Singapore's shark fin imports.