Malaysia: Sharks and rays still in demand in Sabah for their meat

Olivia Miwil New Straits Times 8 Sep 19;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is keen to protect sharks and rays in the state’s waters but the problem is the two species of marine life have been a staple food for some locals.

A fishmonger of 35 years at the wet market here, who declined to be named, said due to demand from consumers, fisherman continue to net the two species.

“I am aware of the move to ban the catching of sharks and rays to prevent both species from becoming extinct. But some people in Sabah including fishermen still consume the meat,” he said, adding sharks and rays were sold between RM8 and RM12 per kilogramme.

He however said that the catch involving the two marine species was far less nowadays, compared to three decades ago.

“Back then, I used to sell at least a tonne of sharks - guitar sharks and hammerheads in a week.

“I remember the biggest shark weighed about 200 kilogrammes. Now the most I get from the suppliers is just 70 kilogrammes and is available only twice or thrice a week,” he said, adding that he receives his shark and ray supply from fisherman operating in the waters of Sabah’s west-coast.

A buyer who only wanted to be known as Hassan said he consumed shark meat once a month due to the belief that it helps in the “cleansing of the lymph system” in the body.

During a recent Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference, Malaysia was among 40 countries which opposed a proposal to protect certain species of sharks and rays from exploitation.

The federal Fisheries Department defended the vote against the move saying that the sharks and rays were caught unintentionally.

Shark experts have said fishing of those species did not contribute to direct decline of their population.

However, the federal government had in July gazetted four species of sharks and two species of rays to be listed as endangered under the newly amended Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

The newly listed species under the Shark group are Sphyrna mokarran (great hammerhead shark), Sphyrna zygaena (smooth hammerhead shark), Eusphyra blochii (winghead shark) and the Carcharhinus longimanus (oceanic whitetip shark).

The species under the Ray group are Manta birostris (oceanic manta) and Manta alfredi (reef manta).

Previously, it was reported that Sabah Food and Agriculture Industry minister Datuk Junz Wong as saying that in recent years, restaurants in the state had also stopped serving shark fins as there wsas a better conservation awareness among the people.

The state, however, would look into protection of shark and ray species through the amendment of state Fisheries Enactment and ban trawlers in the near future for more sustainable marine stock in Sabah waters.