KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is set to ban shark fishing, including finning, by the end of the year, its Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said today.
The ban, expected to be enforced after the amendments to the Sabah Parks Enactment are tabled in the State Assembly sitting in November, however will only be effective in its six marine parks, covering some 8 per cent of the state’s waters.
“Once the law is in place, we can start to act against those caught shark hunting within the state’s marine parks,” said Masidi.
Sabah State authorities has previously proposed for amendments to be made to national fisheries law that will ban shark hunting, following reports of a dwindling shark population.
But following a rejection by Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek who said there was no need for such a ban, Masidi had said they would go ahead with enacting its own ban where possible.
Masidi said this is to protect the remaining shark population in its waters that brought in hundreds of millions of ringgit to the dive industry.
He said the state government would continue to work with the federal Fisheries Department to identify and ban specific species of shark.
Currently, species like the hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, winghead shark, and oceanic wingtip shark — as well as the oceanic and reef manta rays — are banned on recommendation of the Sabah Fisheries Department.
“It is imperative that we protect sharks in our waters, who bring in more tourism dollars being alive and in the wild than being sold as sea food,” he said after a meeting with the Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA).
He lauded the association’s move to organise its second exhibition on “Alternative to Shark Fin Soup,” in November here, saying that the state encouraged all efforts against the hunting, finning and consumption of sharks.
“There has been an increase in awareness among Sabahans against shark finning. Shark fin soup has become a bad word for some and they actively seek alternatives,” he said.
SSPA president Aderick Chong said that the anti-shark fin movement has gained momentum globally and nationally with many major restaurants and hotels taking it off their menus and providing alternatives.
However, since shark fin soup is especially sought-after during big wedding ceremonies, the association decided to campaign for another highly sought-after ingredient to replace shark fin.
“This year, we are working with a local fish breeder Go Seafood Sdn Bhd to offer the Empurau that has a RM2,000 a kilogram price tag as an alternative to shark’s fin,” said Chong.
“So for those who want to offer a ‘prestigious’ soup for their wedding, they can serve expensive fish like empurau. We will be introducing it and bird nest-based soups among others at the exhibition in November.”
Empurau, also known as kelah or belian in Malay, is a freshwater fish that was formerly found only in Sarawak. It has gained some fame as one of the most expensive fish in the country.
It is being bred in Kuching, and the company has joint venture with local partners to breed the fish in Balung, Tawau.