Over-fishing of sharks in Malaysia has reached a point where it is no longer sustainable

Malaysia is ranked as the world’s ninth largest producer of shark products and third largest importer in volume terms, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, State of the Global Market for Shark Products report, 2015. About 84 per cent of these imported shark fins are consumed domestically.
The over-fishing of sharks has reached a point where it is no longer sustainable, and this will adversely affect the country’s seafood supply chain. According to WWF-Malaysia’s Marine Prog­ramme Sustainable Seafood manager G. Chitra Devi, sharks are a wildlife species whose existence played a crucial role in keeping the ecosystem healthy. The high consumption of shark fins in Malaysia causes sharks to be overfished. The decline of sharks will cut short the supply of seafood and affect human survival. If the present trade of sharks continues, businesses will exhaust their supply of fins and sharks. According to the association, sharks prevented potential outbreak of diseases and helped improve the gene pool of other fish species, which were crucial for the continued supply of fish as a major and affordable source of protein. It added that sharks kept the populations of commercial and non-commercial fish in check, enabling only healthier and stronger fish to remain and reproduce in larger numbers, keeping the marine ecosystem stable. The association also expressed concern that despite studies confirming the shark’s role in the ecosystem, various types and sizes of sharks were fished daily and ended up as a meal, mainly in the form of shark’s fin soup. Together with various non-governmental organisations, the association champions the protection of endangered sharks and sting rays in Sabah through three core areas – habitat protection through existing or new Marine Protected Areas; the strengthening of governance and law, and continued raising of awareness, especially among consumers; and engagement with the business sector to reduce pressure on sharks in the wild.

Urgent need to stop shark fishing in Malaysia

The Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) is urgently calling for Malaysia to take serious action and protect the dwindling shark population in the country. Its President, Aderick Chong said the need to take immediate measures was made more urgent in the light of a recent local news report titled ‘Destruction of sharks in Semporna shock tourists’ following the resuming of shark fishing in Pulau Mabul.
“Shark fishing needs to stop immediately. Most shark species are endangered and we cannot afford to lose more due to direct take from humans. “Moreover, fresh shark meat, dried shark fins and products are still openly traded in wet markets and shops. He said a report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nation’s state of the global market for shark products clearly indicated that Malaysia was a major shark producer with a large consumer market for shark fins.
“Malaysia is already ranked the world’s ninth largest shark producer and third largest shark importer in volume. We should not increase the volume by allowing shark fishing to continue, and embrass ourselves by ranking higher in these shark activities in future,” he said. There are currently no catch quotas for catching sharks and rays in Malaysian waters since the Malaysian government claims that the country does not have a shark finning industry.
The Malaysian government claims that the country does not have a shark finning industry
Scientific study of sharks in the Semporna region carried out by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) a few years ago valued a single living shark in Sabah’s waters at US815,000 to Sabah in terms of tourism revenue, compared with US100 for its fins. Apart from the economic benefits from the dive tourism, he said sharks help to stabilise the marine ecosystem and keep oceans healthy and also protect vital sea habitats and even prevent climate change. Malaysia was a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993, and the prime minister had declared the country’s commitment to protect biodiversity in Malaysia as part of the Coral Triangle region during the Leaders Summit of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) in May 2009.

Friends of Earth Malaysia condemns the slaughter of sharks in Sabah

Friends of Earth Malaysia condemns the slaughter of sharks at Pulau Mabul in Sabah. The authorities must take this issue seriously. Sharks are losing the battle for survival. How long can they withstand man’s onslaught? As long as there is no protection for sharks, the demand for their body parts will continue, causing their numbers to plummet. The killing of sharks calls for an investigation and for perpetrators to be prosecuted. It is the sharks that are in need of greater protection from humans and the ramifications of losing sharks — key predator in the food chain — are huge. Other sea life will suffer and jellyfish will expand.

What is the difference between shark finning and shark fishing?

Shark finning is the removal and sale of shark fins, while the rest of the shark body is dumped at sea (the sharks are often still alive!). Shark fishing typically refers to the catch and harvest of the entire shark (or most of it), or the practice of catch and release in a recreational fishery. Shark finning is a wasteful and cruel practice. It is wasteful because the entire body of the shark, which could provide a valuable source of protein as well as income, is dumped overboard at sea because the body would otherwise take up cargo space on the ship. In today’s markets, the fin alone is worth more than the rest of the shark. Shark finning is cruel because the fins are typically removed from live sharks, which are then thrown back into the ocean and left to drown. The impact of shark finning on the global shark population is dramatic and it has been cited as a major conservation concern. Globally, scientists and conservationists have reported a drastic decline in the abundance of assessed shark and ray species, with up to 30% of all species now classified as threatened or endangered. Limited data to assess how many and what type of sharks are being harvested results in a high level of uncertainty about the population status of many shark species. Shark finning contributes to this uncertainty because it is almost impossible to identify what species of shark has been caught based only on its fins.
Stacks Image 91292

Image via Danau Girang Field Centre