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A boat ferrying dead sharks in waters near Pulau Mabul in Semporna on July 22. The photo was allegedly captured by a Swedish tourist and later shared with the Sabah Shark Protection Association. Bernama pix.

KOTA KINABALU: Effective legislation on the capture and consumption of sharks and rays in Sabah must be formulated to protect the species.

In welcoming the announcement that Sabah has the authority to ban shark hunting, the Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) today said a constructive way forward is needed amidst national and international attention on the issue.

“We are asking the Federal and State governments to make changes to the Fisheries Act that may be necessary to enable Sabah to pass the desired State level legislation,” SSPA chairman Aderick Chong said in a statement.

“Since the federal Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry has already announced that Sabah can enact our own laws to ban shark hunting to protect sharks in Sabah, SSPA urges the state Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry to take action on the federal minister's nod on protecting sharks.

“Outside of Sabah Parks Marine Protected Areas or shark sanctuaries, the state ministry under Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin can consider to put in place a ban on shark landing, slaughtering and trading of Sabah's already depleted reef sharks and CITES listed endangered species,” he added.

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments.

SSPA was reacting to the response by Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun that if the State enacted its own laws to ban the hunting and finning of sharks, it may result in the local legislation being challenged.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek had recently announced that Sabah has the authority to ban shark hunting.

Masidi had said Sabah could only enact its own law if such legislation does not conflict with any existing provision in the Federal Fisheries Act that is currently enforced in the State.

SSPA also views positively the proposal by Federal Natural Resource and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar to list sharks under a planned Protected Marine Animals Act pending the ironing out of technicalities between the two ministries, and between Federal and State authorities.

Shark Stewards Director David McGuire said ocean conservationists around the globe applaud the leadership of the Sabah and Federal governments for creating a solution that benefits sharks and ocean health.

Shark Stewards is one of eight SSPA members, the others being Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Malaysian Nature Society (Sabah branch), Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Shark, Education, Awareness and Survival (SEAS), Scubazoo, Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC) and WWF-Malaysia.

LEAP Executive Director Cynthia Ong meanwhile said new or amended laws need to be coupled with efforts to help shark fishermen find alternative sources of livelihood and a meaningful stake in the diving and ecotourism sector.

In recent years there has been a big change in public attitudes to sharks and shark fin soup in Sabah, with awareness raising reaching the point where there is a general call for action.

Fresh photos of sharks being finned on Pulau Mabul in Semporna were splashed all over the media in recent weeks, increasing the pressure on the Federal government to make a stand in relation to Sabah wanting protection for sharks, a matter the State has repeatedly raised.

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