KOTA KINABALU, Nov 5 — Sabah is determined to forge on with its plans to realise its ambition of providing a shark sanctuary and protect the species from being hunted out in its waters, said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.
He said that among its plans to conserve the apex predator in Sabah was to gazette a shark sanctuary in existing marine parks as well as amp up its public awareness campaign via billboards and notices are strategic locations.
“We are going to proceed with the creation of the shark sanctuary, and the current marine parks is a good place for it,” he said, adding that he will issue a full statement once the position papers were tabled at the state Cabinet level.
The protection of a shark sanctuary will mean shark fishing will only be banned in certain areas and will not make it illegal to fish sharks in the state under the Fisheries Act.
Masidi said the government will work with stakeholders to ensure there is continued momentum against shark hunting and finning by bringing the message right to the people.
“We will put up billboards and work with the Malaysia Airports to put up notices that Sabah’s policy is against shark hunting and finning.
“While we welcome all visitors to Sabah, we’ll ask them not to engage in any form of activity that will support shark finning and hunting,” he told reporters after chairing a meeting with the Sabah Shark Protection Association at his office here today.
Early last month, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek dealt a blow to the state’s three-year proposal for a ban on shark hunting and finning by dismissing the need for an amendment to the Fisheries Act.
Despite a reported decline of up to 80 per cent of its shark population, multiple seafood shops offering the delicacy in the state as well as reports of rampant illegal fishing, Ahmad Shabery said that there was no shark hunting industry in the state.
“But there is no use of us crying over spilt milk. We shouldn’t be disheartened that our objective to ban shark hunting and finning was not realised. This is only the start of the journey. We have a long way to go, and we are in it for the long run.
“Over time, they will support this movement and we will triumph in the end,” he said.
Recently, the federal Fisheries Department issued a statement saying it was helping the state to identify locations for the proposed sanctuaries under its National Plan of Action on Sharks, but reiterated that Sabah is not a major shark landing point in the country.
It said shark landings in the state between the year 2000 and 2013 amounted to just over 1,810 tonnes; or 23 per cent of the national catch of 7,735 tonnes of marine creatures.
The department added that sharks were not intentionally hunted in Malaysia, but instead were caught with other commercial species in fishing nets or lines.