Urgent Need for Fishing Restrictions to be upheld in Marine Parks, says Sabah Shark Protection Association

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah – The Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) is appalled at the recently surfaced pictures of sharks killed by fishing nets in and around Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP).

Mr Justinus Guntabid, Park Manager for TARP, has acknowledged concern over the incident and is currently working towards urgent steps needed to prevent this issue from recurring.

“It is disheartening to see these pictures of dead sharks that must have struggled for their lives when they were caught in these nets. Furthermore, it is believed that the nets were resulted from illegal fishing activities within the marine park,” says SSPA President, Aderick Chong.

Illegal fishing activities are an offence under the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park Enactment 1984 for protected areas in Sabah, under section 53. It states that any person who hunts, or is found in circumstances showing that it is his intention to hunt, any animal or bird or disturbs or removes the nest or eggs of any animal or bird in a Park or Nature Reserve can be penalised under section 58 of the enactment.

Penalties for section 53 is under section 58 of the enactment which in the case of a first offence, to imprisonment not exceeding one year and to a fine not exceeding twenty thousand ringgit, or both, and, in the case of a second or subsequent offence, to imprisonment not exceeding two years and to a fine not exceeding forty thousand ringgit, or both.

“Overfishing and the fin trade are threatening Malaysia sharp populations. Immediate enforcement inside Marine Parks is necessary and we are asking Nalaysia to put a stop on all shark and ray finsing until populations can be assessed and recover,” said David McGuire, Director of Shark Stewards. “Losing sharks is causing an imbalance in the marine ecosystem, and killing sharks will create a huge economic loss from dive tourism the country relies on.”

A scientific study of sharks in the Semporna region carried out by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in 2012 valued a single living shark in Sabah’s waters at US$815,000 to Sabah in terms of tourism revenue, compared with US$100 for its fins.

“Considering AIMS’ recent survey, a total of three dead sharks would be equivalent to a loss of approximately US$2.5 million to Sabah,” Chong states.

“SSPA is immensely grateful that Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures have brought this issue to light and have actively been working with Sabah Parks to clear discovered nets around the area. The result of this active collaboration has resulted in releasing live creatures including sharks and rays. We are also pleased to hear that the net from this incident has been completely removed.”

SSPA believes that preventive measures need to be implemented and strongly recommends continuous joint surveillance amongst the dive centres, Sabah Fisheries & Fishing Trawlers Association, and Sabah Parks, to combat the destructive consequences of illegal fishing activities in Sabah.

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).

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Note to editor:
Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) is a civil society collaboration that targets to save sharks and rays in Sabah. It realizes its objective through developing a no-shark fin campaign to reverse the present scenario of high shark-fin consumption in Malaysia and therefore, reduce the demand to fish for sharks. This campaign targets different stakeholders to create awareness leading to tangible reduction in consumptions in Malaysia.

SSPA’s core objectives are:
1. To draft conservation and management plans for sharks, Mobula rays and eagle rays protection and get them approved by all relevant authorities.
2. To allow anyone concerned to be part of this alliance; e.g., dive operators, fishermen, etc. to hold regular and sustained public forums; for members of the public to voice concerns from the ground.
3. To raise awareness of the importance of sharks, Mobula rays and eagle rays and their habitat, and share all relevant information.
4. To promote collaboration among NGOs, dive operators, fishermen, traders, academicians, fishing associations, etc.

SSPA is also collaborating with Shark Savers in the Shark campaign.

For further information:
Aderick Chong, President, Sabah Shark Protection Association,
Tel: +6016-830-6828 Email: aderickchong@hotmail.com

Justinus Guntabid, Park Manager (Tunku Abdul Rahman Park), Sabah Parks,
Tel: +60 19 861 0404 Email: gjustinus@gmail.com

Kimberly Chung, Senior Communications & Campaigns Officer, Marine Programme, WWF-Malaysia,
Tel: +60 88 262 420 Email: kchung@wwf.org.my