KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry’s legal department is in the midst of preparing amendments to the Sabah Parks Enactment 1984 in a move to turn all six marine parks in the state into shark sanctuaries.
Its minister, Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, said amendments to the enactment would be tabled at the state assembly once the review was finalised.
The marine parks are Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Tun Sakaran Marine Park, Tun Mustapha Park, Pulau Tiga Park, Turtle Islands Park and Sipadan Island Park.
“There are certain requirements to amend certain provisions of the law, which we hope to table in this coming assembly session. We have had some positive achievements in trying to get our sharks fully protected.
“Even the federal authorities are now more engaging in (Sabah’s) request for amendments to the Fisheries Act 1985 that would allow total banning of shark fishing for certain category of species.
“Sabah has a lot of sharks and we are trying to protect all species. This, of course, requires a bit of adjustment to the Fisheries Act so we can harmonise the law relating to the protection of sharks in both federal and state laws,” he said.
Masidi was speaking at a press conference on the Alternative To Shark Fin Soup Exhibition, which will be held on Nov 11 at Imago Mall, here.
Present were Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) president Aderick Chong, Imago acting marketing manager Rustam Ahmad, Go Seafood Sdn Bhd chief executive officer and executive director, Mikhail Razak Harris and Chua Hua Beng.
Masidi said he had held informal discussions with leaders from Kuala Lumpur and noted that they had begun to understand the situation Sabah was facing and pursuing with regards to shark conservation.
“I am also happy to note that the public are now quick to respond when they see photos of slaughtered sharks in the market. This shows Sabahans are now aware of the need to protect marine species.
“Sometimes, this issue crops up and I get a message on Facebook, saying ‘Masidi, where are you?’. Well, I’m still in KK and I’m still the minister but (jokes aside) there is no law that gives authority to the minister to take action against this.
“There is no law to allow us to stop shark fishing. So, I hope the people understand this and if indeed there is a law (banning shark fishing), I will be in the forefront to ensure it does not happen,” he said.
Currently, the Sabah Fisheries Department has listed whale sharks and sawfish (ray species) as protected and threatened under the Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulations 1999 and Fisheries Act 1985.
The department has proposed another four shark and two ray species, which have been listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species 2008, to be categorised as threatened under the Fisheries Act.
The sharks are Sphyrna mokarran (great hammerhead shark), Sphyrna zygaena (smooth hammerhead shark), Eusphyra blochii (winghead shark) and the Carcharhinus longimanus (oceanic whitetip shark). The rays are Manta birostris (oceanic manta) and Manta alfredi (reef manta).
As the diving industry is one of Sabah’s active segments in spurring the state’s economy, Masidi said shark conservation must be emphasised to prevent species extinction such as what has befallen the Sumatran rhinoceros.
“I’m personally happy that SSPA is continuously educating the public. Ensuring total protection (of sharks) lies in our attitude. The laws can only be effective if there is strict enforcement, but our attitude determines whether our sharks survive.”
Meanwhile, Chong said the upcoming Alternative To Shark Fin Soup Exhibition focused on creating awareness and introducing substitutes for the dish to the public.
He said a similar event was organised in 2012 when many restaurants and hotels were still serving shark fin soup.
“However, this time around some (restaurants and hotels) have given up, or rather struck off their menus, and this year we are stepping up our event with the support of Go Seafood, which produces Royal Empurau products.
“The Empurau fish is a sustainable resource, prestigious and expensive compared to shark fins. So we have a good alternative this year, together with birds nest.
“We have put up a really good fight against shark fin soup and now we have a ‘contender’. Hopefully, there will be more restaurants participating in the exhibition,” he said.