Tuesday, June 25

Three marine parks to be shark sanctuaries



KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will declare three of its marine parks as shark sanctuaries by mid-2016 in a bid protect the endangered marine creatures, said Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

They are the Tun Sakaran marine park in Semporna district, Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park here and the proposed Tun Mustapha marine park in Kudat.

These marine parks cover a total area of some two million hectares and are home to about 80 per cent of our shark population, said Masidi after launching the My Fin My Life campaign to reduce shark fin consumption and promote sustainable seafood at Suria Sabah shopping mall here yesterday.

Masidi said the move to ban shark fishing at the marine parks would hopefully increase the shark population.

Masidi said his ministrys officers were finalising documents to be tabled during the state cabinet meeting for the three marine parks to be gazetted as shark sanctuaries.

He said the announcement would coincide with the declaration of the Tun Mustapha marine park in the middle of the year.

He said the state had no choice but to use state laws to protect Sabahs shark population when a request to the federal government to amend the Fisheries Act to protect marine creature was rejected.

We only asked for shark hunting to be banned in Sabah, not in other states, said Masidi, adding he was not afraid of being politically incorrect in the name of protecting the states natural heritage.

Last September Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that the Sabah governments request for a ban on shark hunting and finning in the state was unnecessary.

He said sharks, unlike tuna, were accidentally caught by fishermen in Malaysian waters. This indicated that shark hunting and the finning industry did not exist in Malaysia.

Masidi also said sharks are endangered and should be protected. Sharks are vital to Sabah’s diving industry and earned the state about RM364 million in 2014.

In line with this, the Sabah State Government is urging all parties to collaborate with the Sabah Shark Protection Association and partners to take urgent action to minimise the effects of seafood consumption to our marine biodiversity.

We are calling on Sabahans to take action and not consume shark fin soup or shark products, said Masidi.

The My Fin My Life campaign was launched by the Sabah State Government and SSPA yesterday to reduce shark fin consumption and promote sustainable seafood.

A series of public awareness activities were held at the mall during the weekend, including an Amazing Shark Race, shark related activities for children, performance by an American Jazz player, launch of the Break the Soup Bowl Challenge, showing of SSPA shark video, and a photo opportunity with shark mascots.

Malaysia is ranked as the worlds ninth largest producer of shark products and third largest importer in volume terms, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (State of the Global Market for Shark Products report, 2015).

Eighty-four per cent of these imported shark fins were consumed domestically. Between 2004 and 2011, an average of 1,384 metric tonnes of imported shark fins were consumed annually in Malaysia. In the past ten years, the volume of shark fin consumption has increased by an average of 54% per year. 2004 was a significant year, as we increased our fin consumption from 38 to 366 metric tonnes in just one year, and we have increased steadily our fin import to 3,072 metric tonnes in 2011.

Stressing the critical need to protect the species, WWF-Malaysia’s Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma said, Shark fin is the most valuable shark product. The high demand for shark fin is currently the main driver to unsustainable shark fishing globally. It is estimated that at least 1.4 million tonnes or 100 million sharks are killed per year. Global shark tourism generates revenue of around US$314 million annually and is expected to keep growing to a potential $780 million annually over the next 20 years.

Sharks are keystone species in the oceans and are at the top of the marine food chain. They keep the fish population in check and healthy by eating old, sick or slower fish, and prevent the potential outbreak of diseases and strengthen the gene pool of the prey species. Only stronger and healthier fish remain to reproduce in greater numbers, which leads to much healthier fish in the seas.

Sustaining sharks will sustain oceans and seafood. Cutting short sharks existence will cut short our own supply of seafood and food security. Thus, shark survival ensures human survival, concluded Dr Sharma.

Sabah Shark Protection Association president Aderick Chong, said, We realise it is not easy to expect consumers to give up their ways, but time is running out for sharks. We have to keep working hard to raise awareness and create stronger partnerships including with the government, the private and hospitality sectors, and academe. When the consumption of sharks stops, the killing stops!

In addition to the Sabah State Government, SSPA also works in partnership with the Kota Kinabalu City Council, Reef Check Malaysia, Shark Savers and Scuba Schools International (SSI) on the My Fin My Life campaign to reach out to a wider audience in Kota Kinabalu. Business and public activities for the campaign are also planned in the Klang Valley and Penang to run until July 2016.