Marine life

The Tanjung Aru Jaycees have launched a campaign to discourage the eating of sharks. Holding the banner from left: JCI senators Martin Lai and Joseph Chieng, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun, campaign organisers Aderick Chong, Yvonne Chong and George Ong, and Hazel Oakley of Green Connection.

Sabah may be first
in Asia to ban shark trade

By Oliver Majaham
Pictures by Ille Tugimin

Campaign heats up to save millions of sharks from being killed for food

Sharks evolved 400m years ago to keep oceans healthy. As predators, they rule the underwater world. But they are losing a battle against man. The latest score: Sharks have killed 13 people so far this year. Man kills 73m of them every year largely for their fins which are turned into a culinary delicacy in Asia. Now environmentalists are stepping up a worldwide campaign to stop people from eating them. And Sabah may become the first in Asia to ban shark hunting next year.

Shark finning in Taiwain. <i>Picture: Pew Environmental Group</i>

The world trade in shark fins is about 2.5 billion ringgit ($800m) a year. There are no figures for Sabah’s. But divers have complained that they are seeing fewer sharks in Layang Layang, off Labuan Island, home to the badly endangered hammerhead sharks. Other shark haunts are Lankayan Island, Roach Reef and Sipadan Island off Sabah’s east coast.

Hazel OakleyHazel Oakley of the Green Connection, an aquarium and science centre in Kota Kinabalu, says 98% of sharks have been killed in South-East Asia.

Masidi Manjun, Sabah’s minister of tourism, environment and culture, now wants laws to ban shark hunting and finning next year to save the north Borneo island state’s diving and tourism industry. The diving business is worth 195m ringgit a year and gives jobs to 2,000 people. The Sabah government has already banned shark fin soup, the most popular and prized delicacy, from its luncheons and dinners.

The government will add sharks to its list of protected endangered animals and mammals under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997. A wildlife department official says this will mean that sharks cannot be hunted, killed, finned or traded. This law also protects the rare Sumatran rhinoceros and the orang-utans.

But Masidi wants the federal government to place sharks on the list of protected species under the Fisheries Act of 1985 that will outlaw shark hunting and finning in Sabah waters. This is to avoid legal disputes since federal laws override state laws.

Shark fins are dried in the sun. <i>Picture: Pew Environmental Group</i>“It makes economic sense to us to ban shark hunting and finning to protect our tourism industry,” he said at the launch of a campaign against shark fin soup in Kota Kinabalu last month.

“It is in keeping with sustainable tourism. If we continue to eat sharks, sooner or later they will disappear from this part of the world. Our priority is to save whatever remaining sharks in Sabah waters. The sooner we get it done the better.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed 233 shark species on its Red List. Twelve are “critically endangered” and 126 of them risk extinction.

Taiwan has just announced that it will ban shark finning next year, starting in September. But it stops short of banning shark catching and a lucrative shark trade. Critics say sharks can still be sold in Taiwan minus the fins. The difficulty is proving who sliced off the fins, they say. About 4m sharks are caught off Taiwan waters yearly, making the island the biggest of the top ten shark hunting countries which include America, Argentina, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan and Spain.

So, Malaysia looks likely to be the first Asian country to ban the shark trade once it protects them by law. – Insight Sabah

Posted on November 2, 2011

Malay 中文 Kadazan
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Latest Comments
  • Mr.

    By Teymour on 20-01-2013 08:24 am

    I  as a marine biologist want to limit Sea cucumber catching in Sabah waters. Also want to do more control on snorclers/ scuba divers those who swim around coral reefs.


  • this is good news for the ecosystem

    By Alex on 04-01-2012 09:46 pm

    this will be good for asia and hopefully we can be a role model to the other nations like taiwan ,chaina and macau. i will hope the goverment will enforce this law

  • It

    By HomoSapien on 15-11-2011 02:20 pm

    a worthy cause. why not ban birds' nests too
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