KOTA KINABALU: It was a heart-wrenching Chinese New Year celebration for Sabah’s shark conservationist Adderick Chong as pictures of the slaughter of oceanic manta ray emerged after a lull from the diving havens of Pulau Mabul.
A total of two oceanic manta rays, 13 devil rays and one shark were slaughtered by people along the village at Pulau Mabul this weekend as shocked Chinese and western tourists took pictures and questioned their guides on why the killings were taking place.
He said the tourist guides said the tourists were appalled by the sight of the killings.
One of the tourists had told them that they came to Sipadan to dive and see the mantas and sharks under the sea. But, they only saw them on land being butchered, said Chong, who is Sabah Sharks Protection Association president.
He said the manta ray was supposed to be gazetted as protected species under the federal Fisheries Act for Sabah last year but they still do not know what the status of the protection was.
Apart from the oceanic and reef manta rays, the federal Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry had agreed to ban the hunting and finning of hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, winghead shark, and oceanic wingtip shark on the recommendation of the Sabah Fisheries Department.
Chong, however, said there has been no official word on whether the ban had been gazetted and had passed through the various legal requirements of the law.
“We want to know what has happened to the ban. This latest killing is really sad, we need the law to be enforced if the ban was in place,” he said.
Sabah has also proposed to ban shark fishing and finning at all six of its marine parks by the end of 2017 through an amendment to the Sabah Parks Enactment.
Last year, State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said that the ban within marine parks, which covers about 8% of Sabah waters, would help in taking action against those caught shark hunting within the states marine parks.
State authorities had been pushing for amendments to be made to national fisheries law that will ban shark hunting altogether amid reports of a dwindling shark population.
Masidi, who supports the ban on shark hunting, said that there must be efforts to protect sharks in Sabah waters as it brought in more tourism dollars being alive and in the wild than being sold as seafood.