Sabah Parks going after whale shark rider in Semporna waters

KOTA KINABALU: Riding on whale sharks is a serious offence and Sabah Parks is going after the man who was filmed doing so in the waters off Semporna.

Shocked by the incident, Sabah Parks director Maklarin Lakim said shark riding, turtle and starfish touching, coral lifting and any of such actions were not allowed when carrying out leisure activities at islands or waters off the state.

“We are investigating this case and collecting information. This is a serious offence and cannot be taken lightly.

“We hope to find the man so that further action can be taken,” he said yesterday.

In a 17-second video, believed to be taken at Pulau Sibuan last Friday, a man, said to be a tour guide, is seen riding on a whale shark.

This came to light following a report by the Semporna Professional Diver Association (SPDA), who expressed dismay over the incident, with its president Suzimin Idris suggesting that only licensed guides should be allowed to operate to prevent such incidents.

Maklarin said all tour guides should know the rules of the park and were supposed to abide by the various by-laws and enactments.

“We believe that person could either be a freelance guide or an illegal guide who was overexcited to be on the job when he came across the marine creature,” he added.

Under the Parks Enactment 1984, Maklarin pointed out that one was not allowed to touch or possess any of the marine species on islands or parks within Sabah Parks, unless with permission and supervision for research and other scientific purposes.

He said an offender could either be fined or jailed, upon conviction.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said the department, which covers jurisdiction outside of Sabah Parks areas, had similar prohibitions.

“Under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, one can be fined between RM50,000 and RM150,000 or jailed between six months and three years, or both upon conviction,” he said.

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