Posted by: The ocean update | October 5, 2015

Minister misinformed on the shark situation : NGO (Malaysia)

Picture courtesy of Jason Isley/scubazoo.com

Picture courtesy of Jason Isley/scubazoo.com

October 5th, 2015. Kota Kinabalu : Malaysia is a major shark producer with a large consumer market for shark fins, posting large import volumes of low-valued shark fins.

The demand for shark fin and meat leads to the high volumes of sharks being caught in the country.

Refuting the stand of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek who said a ban on shark hunting was unnecessary, Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) said Malaysia needed to take serious and urgent action to manage its shark and ray population by implementing its international and local commitment.

Shabery had said that sharks, unlike tuna, are accidentally caught by fishermen in Malaysian waters, indicating that shark hunting and the finning industry did not exist in Malaysia.

However, SSPA said in a statement that Malaysia is ranked as the world’s ninth-largest shark producer and third-largest importer in volume terms, according to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nation’s report entitled State of the global market for shark products.

It said that from 2000 to 2011, Malaysia recorded average annual shark fin imports of 1,172 tonnes, worth USD3.2 million (approximately RM14 million) and average annual shark fin exports 238 tonnes, worth USD902,000 (approximately RM3.9 million).

There are currently no catch quotas for catching sharks and rays in Malaysian waters, and government statistics show a declining trend in annual catches since a high in 2003, indicating shark populations may be in decline.

Sharks are one of many groups of fishes targeted by multi-species fisheries, which include the use of trawling and gill nets, and require specific management measures if they are to be sustainable. The fins of sharks caught in Malaysia waters are typically removed at the landing site, demonstrating that the sale of the fins is part of the income of fishers who catch them.

SSPA commended the Department of Fisheries Malaysia (DoFM) for revising its National Plan of Action (NPOA) in 2014, which recognised the importance of managing our shark population, and put in place measures to strengthen protection of shark in Malaysia.

The current NPOA, under Action 5 IV, calls for amendment of existing regulation or impose conditions on fishing licence to combat the issue of absence in finning regulations under the current legal framework.

“Putting this action in place will provide stronger protection for sharks in Malaysia, and particularly in Sabah.

“Requiring sharks to be brought to shore with their fins attached will not necessarily reduce the amount of sharks killed, but it will ensure that the whole sharks are landed, making it far more straightforward for authorities to monitor shark catches to a species level,” it said.

Sharks are particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation because they are slow-growing, mature at a late age, and have relatively low productivity.

Therefore, their populations are slow to recover once overfished. This is a major concern as many species of sharks are top predators and play an important role in balancing the marine ecosystems.

It reminded that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib declared the country’s commitment to protect biodiversity as part of the Coral Triangle region during the Leaders Summit of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) in May 2009.

Malaysia, under the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008, protects sharks for trade, but it does not address the issue of shark finning and hunting, it lamented.

It said overfishing, destructive fishing methods (like fish bombing), pollution and unsustainable coastal development have led to significant declines in coral reefs, and negatively impacted the species reliant on these habitats, which are integral to the survival and health of the marine ecosystem.

On Shabery’s offer to discuss the shark finning ban with the Sabah Government at any time, SSPA said the need is not only on discussing the proposal to set up a shark protection area, but the urgency of strengthening shark protection under relevant conservation and fisheries laws in Malaysia.

The shark protected area refers to the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPA); areas designated and effectively managed to protect marine ecosystems, processes habitats and species, which can contribute to the restoration and replenishment of resources for social, economic and cultural enrichment.

SSPA, a civil society collaboration that targets to save sharks and rays in Sabah, sees their objective through developing a no-shark fin campaign in order to reverse the present scenario of high shark-fin consumption in Malaysia, in order to reduce the demand to fish for sharks.

SSPA is made up 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).

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