Malaysia: ‘Turn marine parks into sanctuaries if all else fails’

The Star 22 Jul 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will have no choice but to turn marine parks into sanctuaries if the Federal Government refuses to enforce laws against shark hunting.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the move was necessary if the state government was serious about wanting to save the sharks, with the marine species being one of the main reasons tourists came to Sabah to dive.

Legal officers are now looking into the mechanics of establishing the shark sanctuaries and the relevant laws that could be enacted to outlaw shark hunting in all the marine parks covering over two million hectares, he said.

Masidi said like many others, he was furious over the incident but could only helplessly watch the unnecessary killing of the sharks in an industry that rakes in some RM380mil in tourism revenues.

“Declaring marine parks simultaneously as sanctuaries is the next best thing for sharks if laws cannot not be implemented to protect them,” he said, adding that an announcement would be made in a month or two.

He also lamented the fact that the state government’s numerous proposals to the federal authorities to amend the Fisheries Act three years ago had been misinterpreted as an attempt to restrain the fishing industry.

“There is nothing much we can do until the law is amended to give us power to take action,” Masidi said, adding that the proposed amendment aimed to ensure the sustainability of the tourism industry, which depends heavily on the beauty of the sea and marine life.

For Sabah to continue benefiting from the tourism industry, sacrifices (shark hunting) needed to be made, he said.

Activists: Ban shark hunting
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 22 Jul 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Environmentalists and divers in Sabah have started a campaign to get the Federal Government to amend laws to ban shark hunting in the state’s islands.

The campaign came about following the revelation of pictures of sharks being finned and slaughtered in the diving haven of Pulau Mabul near Sipadan.

The images were also featured on the Facebook page of the US Embassy.

Among others, the campaign calls for the people to stop eating shark fin soup and claims that finning sharks is equivalent to killing elephants for their tusks.

Conservation groups have also expressed concern that the slaughter will affect the local tourism industry.

Sabah Shark Protection Association president Aderick Chong said the unemployment rate would spike if the Government ignored the call to ban shark hunting for the sake of some fishermen.

“Tourists come here to see our marine life and to have such horrific photographs circulated or have no sharks left to see would not do any good to the tourism industry,” he said.

He added that “reasons” such as protecting the livelihood of fishermen should not be an excuse for the Federal Government to not act on the issue.

As for the fishermen’s livelihood, Chong said there were many alternatives, especially in the tourism industry.

“Other options such as seaweed planting could also be taken up,” he added.

Chong said although there are ongoing programmes by the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre in Pom Pom and Kalapuan islands that work with communities to adopt more sustainable livelihoods, the killings are still happening.

Conservation groups claim sharks are butchered in Mabul at least three times a week, with many of the incidences witnessed by horrified tourists.

Marine biologist Ric Owen said shark-viewing is among the main products offered by tour operators, adding: “You have thousands of tourists coming from all over the world just to see sharks, yet you have people here killing them for food.”

Netizens have reacted angrily to the pictures, with one Kelvin Fong saying that countries such as Australia have enacted laws to protect sharks in their waters, while Justin Immanuel said there was no point having laws when there is no enforcement.

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