Worth more alive

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Ecowatch - The killing of sharks in Mabul is­land shocked tourists world­wide.

A sin­gle live shark is worth US$815,000 (RM3.5 mil­lion) to Sabah in terms of tourism rev­enue over its life­span, com­pared with merely US$100 (RM429) when killed for its fins.

This was the re­search done on sharks in Sem­porna by the Australian In­sti­tute of Marine Sci­ence (AIMS) a few years ago, said Ad­er­ick Chong in 2016. Chong is the chair­man of the Sabah Shark Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (SSPA) and now hopes that more shark and ray species can be pro­tected un­der the Fish­eries Reg­u­la­tions 1999, re­ports Ber­nama.

It is es­ti­mated that some 55,000 divers come to Sabah ev­ery year and 80% of them want to see live sharks in the sea. The dive in­dus­try is worth more than RM380 mil­lion in tourism re­ceipts.

The state is blessed with many beau­ti­ful is­lands in­clud­ing Si­padan, Mabul, Matak­ing, Pom-Pom, Lankayan, Man­tanani and Layang-Layang, just to name a few. Si­padan in par­tic­u­lar is con­sis­tently listed among the world’s Top Ten dive des­ti­na­tions.

The in­dus­try pro­vides jobs not just to dive in­struc­tors but also to tour guides, boat­men, re­sort staff, restau­rants and as­so­ci­ated sup­pli­ers.

While con­grat­u­lat­ing the Sabah state gov­ern­ment’s move to pro­pose four shark and two ray species to be in­cluded in the Reg­u­la­tions (part of the Fed­eral Fish­eries Act 1985), Chong points out that civil so­ci­ety, sci­en­tists and those in the tourism in­dus­try con­tinue to wit­ness alarm­ing num­bers of sharks and rays, in­clud­ing en­dan­gered species, be­ing caught and killed.

In April, the state gov­ern­ment de­cided to list the great ham­mer­head shark, smooth ham­mer­head shark, wing­head shark, oceanic whitetip shark, oceanic manta and reef manta un­der the Reg­u­la­tions.

He says the SSPA also hopes that the scal­loped ham­mer­head, silky shark, three species of thresher sharks and nine species of devil rays – which are listed on Ap­pen­dix II of CITES (the Con­ven­tion on the In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species), would be given sim­i­lar pro­tec­tion.

“These species al­ways fea­ture high on the wish list of divers, par­tic­u­larly scal­loped ham­mer­heads and devil rays. Many divers are at­tracted to Sabah in the hope of see­ing one of these in­cred­i­ble an­i­mals,” Chong told Ber­nama.

“Sadly, they are be­ing killed on a daily ba­sis, so we need the gov­ern­ment to act now be­fore they dis­ap­pear for­ever.”

Sabah Tourism, Cul­ture and En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Ma­sidi Man­jun has warned that Sabah will lose tourists to other coun­tries un­less the killing of sharks for their fins is banned in the state.

Blood-stained seas from sharks hav­ing their fins sliced off (on land) shocked tourists at Mabul is­land in 2012 and again in 2016, cre­at­ing world­wide neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity.

The Fish­eries depart­ment has re­vealed that sharks and rays are of­ten ac­ci­den­tally caught as “by­catch”, with al­most half com­ing from trawlers. Sharks and rays are also caught by “rawai” (lines of over 50m full of deadly hooks), gill nets and fish traps.

As an ad­vo­cacy group, 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 WWFMalaysia.

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