KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will lose out to neighbouring countries in generating income in the tourism industry if it fails to conserve its shark population.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the southern Philippines' waters, which are rich in biodiversity, pose a competition to Sabah's diving activities.
"Philippine President (Rodrigo) Duterte is going all out to sort out the security issue in the country.
"Our reluctance to get shark species protected, will give opportunities for other countries to take advantage of the diving industry," he said in his closing speech during the 'My Fin My Life' campaign at the Kota Kinabalu Business dialogue here.
Last year, about 55,000 divers came to Sabah and 80 per cent of them wanted to see live sharks in the sea.
The year-long activity alone contributed more than RM300 million in tourism receipts.
Masidi added that besides restaurants, local employment in tourism services would be greatly affected when the population of the marine ecosystem's apex predator diminishes.
He also said Natural Resources and Environment minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had agreed to find ways for the state to better protect the species through laws.
Meanwhile, the state ministry had earlier annouced that shark sanctuaries would be set up at more than two million hectares of marine parks including the newly-gazetted Tun Mustapha Park in Kudat, Tunku Abdul Rahman park in Kota Kinabalu, and the Tun Sakaran marine park in Semporna.
Present were city mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai, WWF Malaysia marine head Dr Robecca Jumin and Sabah conservation head Dr John Tay as well as Sabah Shark Protection president Aderick Chong.