KOTA KINABALU, Jan 14 — A Sabah shark conservation group pressured the state government today to ban shark fishing, warning that the tourism industry may suffer a backlash from foreign tourist with little appetite for such game.
The Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) said a recent photo by divers showing fishermen hacking the fins off sharks on Pulau Mabul, off the coast of Semporna, indicated the fishing of these sea creatures was ongoing.
“The sharks are being landed and finned in plain view of the public, which includes local and international tourists and divers who come to Semporna expecting to see the beauty and wonders of our marine treasures, especially the rare and endangered sharks.
“How do we explain such horrific shark activities to our paying visitors?” its chairman Aderick Chong said in a statement.
He urged the state government to ban all shark fishing within Sabah’s waters for a year at least, for a more in-depth study to be carried out on sharks in the region.
He said the state was losing millions of ringgit in potential revenue each day the sharks were being fished from Sabah’s waters.
A single live shark is worth US$815,000 (RM3.5 million) to Sabah in terms of tourism revenue, compared with US$100 for its fins, Chong said, citing research on Semporna sharks by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) a few years ago.
Globally, shark tourism generated revenue of around US$314 million annually and is expected to keep growing to a potential US$780 million over the next 20 years.
“Shark fishing needs to stop immediately. Most shark species are endangered and we cannot afford to lose more due to direct take from humans,” Chog said.
SSPA consists of the Malaysian Nature Society (Sabah branch), Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Shark, Education, Awareness and Survival (SEAS), Scubazoo, Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC), WWF-Malaysia, Shark Stewards and Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP).
Sabah has been trying to enforce a shark fishing ban in its waters for new but were hampered by its contradicting federal fisheries laws. It plans to set up a shark sanctuary in its waters in the near future to protect the marine animals.
Yesterday, The Borneo Post reported two British dive enthusiasts expressing horror at witnessing the shark slaughter while on their fifth trip to Mabul recently.