Malaysia: Still no legal weight to Sabah's proposal for shark hunting ban

Rashvinjgeet S. Bedi The Star 23 Aug 13;

PETALING JAYA: The Sabah state government hopes that its proposal to ban shark hunting and finning will have legal weight soon.

Last year, Sabah proposed an amendment to the Fisheries Act that would give force to such a ban, but the Federal government had yet to pass it.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said they were frustrated at length of time it was taking.

"We have sent over (the draft) but we are still waiting. It is a bit frustrating in the sense that there seems to be no urgency on the issue," he told The Star Online.

Masidi said that local environmental groups estimated that the shark population in Sabah had declined by 80% over the past 30 years.

He said that the sharks could only be found in certain places such as Semporna and off the coast of Kudat and Tawau.

"We are only asking that they ban it in Sabah. We have no business interfering in the matters of other states," he said.

A recent study by Traffic, a conservation NGO, showed that Malaysia played a significant role in the global shark trade and was amongst the top 10 importers and exporters in the world from 2000-2009.

The report also said that Malaysia caught 231,212 tonnes of sharks from 2002 to 2011, the eighth highest globally, accounting for 2.9% of the total global reported shark catch during that period.

Masidi said that he had no issue against the consumption of shark fin's soup, but the matter had to be viewed objectively, taking the overall economy of Sabah into account. He said that many divers wanted to see sharks in its waters.

"The economic and environmental benefits of maintaining the shark population outweigh that of killing them for their fins.

"If they are gone, there might be less incentive for divers to come here. This might jeopardise an industry that hires many locals," he said.

He said the diving industry brought in more than RM200mil a year to the state.
"Once tourists stop coming here, who will patronise the seafood restaurants? It is all related to one another," he said.

WWF: Save the sharks now
The Star 24 Aug 13;

PETALING JAYA: A national action plan to include a freeze on shark fishing should be implemented immediately by Malaysia to check overfishing as part of efforts to conserve the marine eco-system, said WWF-Malaysia.

Making the call on the back of reports that Malaysia ranks among the top 10 in the global shark trade, it said the national action plan for all states in the country was inevitable and was the best option.

WWF-Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said the action plan should include implementation of regulations for the export of shark parts as well as monitoring and recording catches.

He said there was a need to have more knowledge on the status of shark populations in Malaysia.

“This is to establish that the catch data is accurate to ensure sustainability of harvest from the sea,’’ he said in urging all Malaysians to stop consuming sharks, both fins and meat, by issuing the sustainable seafood guide.

He said the Sabah Government wanted to ban shark hunting and finning under its wildlife conservation laws where offenders could be jailed up to three years or fined RM30,000.

However, the state needed to have the same legal provision to be included in the federal Fisheries Act 1985, draft amendments for which were submitted to the Government last year.

“WWF-Malaysia urges the Government to review and consider the (Sabah) draft amendments, which include a moratorium on shark fishing and the promotion of alternative livelihood for affected shark fishers or communities.

“A precautionary approach using a moratorium on shark fishing until its population is assessed and, where needed, given time to rebound, is the best solution for now.”

Dr Sharma also said that a recovery plan should be put in place to allow for the reef shark population to fully recover, and protected areas be set up for shark conservation that would eventually lead to supporting healthy reef ecosystems.

Dr Sharma also noted that the international report by Traffic that Malaysia plays a major role in the global shark trade showed an ugly truth of inefficient implementation of international as well as national conservation commitments.

The report stated that Malaysia was one of the biggest players when it comes to shark trade globally, ranking among the top 10 importers and exporters within the period of data collection from 2000 to 2009 by Traffic.

Fulfil Commitments in Conservation of Marine Biodiversity, WWF-Malaysia Urge Government
WWF 23 Aug 13;

23 August 2013, Petaling Jaya: The recent report* in The Star (17 August 2013) confirmed shocking facts on the role Malaysia plays in the global shark trade.

The report revealed the ugly truth of inefficient implementation of international as well as national conservation commitments. Malaysia is now in the league of being one of the biggest players when it comes to shark trade globally, ranking among the top 10 importers and exporters within the period of data collection from 2000-2009 by TRAFFIC.

Tracking back into the history of Malaysia’s commitment in the conservation of the country’s biodiversity, besides being a signatory to the CITES agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993, our Prime Minister, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, declared the country’s commitment to protect biodiversity in Malaysia as part of the Coral Triangle region during the Leaders Summit of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) in May 2009. However, this commitment falls far short when it comes to sharks.

Malaysian seas contain one of the most diverse varieties of marine flora and fauna in the world. Hence, it is our responsibility to protect the biodiversity of our seas including sharks. These large predators play a crucial role in keeping the ecosystems balanced and allowing populations of other creatures to maintain healthy levels.

Yet, our marine environment is severely threatened and at the brink of collapse, unless something is done to address overfishing. There is also a lack of implementation of conservation measures which jeopardize the livelihoods of the coastal communities, and the tourism industry (resort and dive operators), who depend on a healthy marine environment. Studies have shown that sharks are able to draw in up to US$1,000,000 over their lifetime to the tourism industry**.

WWF-Malaysia is in line with TRAFFIC in urging the government to take further action for immediate impact. The effective implementation of the National Plan of Action on the ground for all states in the country is inevitable.

Stricter regulations in export of shark parts out of the country should be implemented, and monitoring of catches record by fishermen at landing ports should also be done regularly. This is to establish that the catch data is accurate to ensure sustainability of harvest from the sea. Supporting this position, WWF-Malaysia has urged all Malaysians to stop consuming sharks, both fins and meat, by issuing the sustainable seafood guide ***.

The Sabah State Government had stated its intention to ban shark hunting and “finning” under its wildlife conservation laws whereby offenders can be jailed up to three years or fined RM30,000. Sabah wants to have the same legal provision to be included in the federal Fisheries Act 1985. The draft amendment was submitted to the Federal Government last year.

“WWF-Malaysia urges the government to review and consider the draft amendment, which includes a moratorium on shark fishing and the promotion of alternative livelihoods for affected shark fishers or communities. A precautionary approach using a moratorium on shark fishing until populations are assessed and, where needed, given time to rebound, is the best solution for now,” said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma.

“A recovery plan should be put in place and when resident reef shark populations have recovered, some can be protected in fully protected no-take reserves which will support healthy reef ecosystems. Where pelagic sharks are known to aggregate, protected areas can be established to protect them in this vulnerable life-history stage,” he added.

“We are at a stage where habitat protection alone will not be sufficient. It will need to be supported by measures to control take of shark, be it targeted or by-catch. This is especially for areas beyond the coverage of protected area for sharks,” Dr Dionysius said.

While the advocacy for legal protection for sharks in Malaysia is in progress and management plans are being promoted, there are still gaps to be filled with regard to the knowledge we have on the status of shark population and fisheries in Malaysia and the implementation of the government’s commitment. More research has to be carried out and data collection methods from landing ports should be improved.

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