ETALING JAYA: The Sabah state government hopes that its proposal to ban shark hunting and finning will have legal weight soon.
Last year, Sabah proposed an amendment to the Fisheries Act that would give force to such a ban, but the Federal government had yet to pass it.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said they were frustrated at length of time it was taking.
"We have sent over (the draft) but we are still waiting. It is a bit frustrating in the sense that there seems to be no urgency on the issue," he told The Star Online.
Masidi said that local environmental groups estimated that the shark population in Sabah had declined by 80% over the past 30 years.
He said that the sharks could only be found in certain places such as Semporna and off the coast of Kudat and Tawau.
"We are only asking that they ban it in Sabah. We have no business interfering in the matters of other states," he said.
A recent study by Traffic, a conservation NGO, showed that Malaysia played a significant role in the global shark trade and was amongst the top 10 importers and exporters in the world from 2000-2009.
The report also said that Malaysia caught 231,212 tonnes of sharks from 2002 to 2011, the eighth highest globally, accounting for 2.9% of the total global reported shark catch during that period.
Masidi said that he had no issue against the consumption of shark fin's soup, but the matter had to be viewed objectively, taking the overall economy of Sabah into account. He said that many divers wanted to see sharks in its waters.
"The economic and environmental benefits of maintaining the shark population outweigh that of killing them for their fins.
"If they are gone, there might be less incentive for divers to come here. This might jeopardise an industry that hires many locals," he said.
He said the diving industry brought in more than RM200mil a year to the state.
"Once tourists stop coming here, who will patronise the seafood restaurants? It is all related to one another," he said.