WWF saddened by catching of sawfish off Pulau Bruit

KUCHING: World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF Malaysia) is saddened by the hauling-up of a 300kg sawfish off Pulau Bruit, stating that the fish is a critically endangered species in the world.

A press release yesterday pointed out that the incident in Pulau Bruit, which WWF-Malaysia believes was unintentional, could have been avoided if fishermen were aware that the species is listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Conservation director Dr Sundari Ramakrishna however said fishermen cannot continue
to plead innocence all the time.

“They need to play their part in conservation by making it their business to fish sustainably, to know which species are common and rare, and make responsible choices by releasing live catch back into the sea.

“WWF-Malaysia hopes that the incident in Pulau Bruit will serve as a lesson to all and
move the people from all walks of life to be more discerning when making their purchases for seafood,” she said.

She believes that when the public are better informed and understand the impacts of seafood choices, they will shift their preference for seafood types to more sustainable species.

She said in June 2007, the IUCN approved trade restrictions for sawfish because trade along with fishing pressure and habitat destruction were pushing them towards extinction.

The IUCN approved all seven sawfish species in Appendix I, banning all international commercial trade except for one species found in Australia, which was included in Appendix II (but only to allow trade in live animals to public aquaria for conservation purposes).

Also known as carpenter sharks, sawfish are large rays related to sharks, with distinctive toothed snouts.

They are often traded for their fins, meat, unique toothed rostra (snouts) and as live animals for exhibition.

Their distinctive saw-like snouts are sold as souvenirs, curios and ceremonial weapons, while other body parts such as skin, liver oil and bile are used in traditional medicines.

Little is known about sawfish, with population facts and figures being scarce, and there are very few sightings.

Global populations of every species of sawfish are estimated to have fallen to less than 10 per cent of their historic levels.

Just earlier this month, IUCN’s Shark Specialist Group (SSG) released a global strategy to prevent extinction and promote recovery of sawfishes.

To complement the existing ban on commercial international sawfish trade, the strategy calls for national and regional actions to prohibit intentional killing of sawfish, minimise mortality of accidental catches, protect sawfish habitats, and ensure effective enforcement of such safeguards.

The document also lays out actions associated with effective communications, capacity building, strategic research and responsible husbandry as well as fundraising to ensure implementation.

The public can check out the status of fish species through WWF’s SOS (Save Our Seafood) Guide which aims at helping consumers make ocean-friendly decisions when it comes to their seafood.

The guide informs them which seafood is recommended, which to think twice about and which ones to avoid.

The guide is available in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin and can be downloaded from www.saveourseafood.my

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