WWF-Malaysia regrets tragic end to Whale Shark off Bagan DatohWWF-Malaysia deeply regrets the process leading to the capture and callous piecemeal sale of the giant whale shark, which, was netted by a fishing trawler off Bagan Sungai Tiang, Bagan Datoh on 2 December 2007.
This happened just when the global media was celebrating the spotting of the 1,000th member of this species off the coast of Mozambique in late November.
According to the caption story carried by the local print media, the fishermen involved had indicated a similar capture “sometime back.”
It is time for the Department of Fisheries to take a greater proactive role in educating coastal populations, and fishermen in particular, on the dos and don’ts of dealing with “unusual catches.”
Conservation education under these circumstances may start off with the greater dissemination of a pictorial list of species considered vulnerable and endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), particularly the ones known to swim in and around Malaysian waters.
Otherwise, the passive atmosphere at the Hutan Melintang jetty, where the whale shark elicited more curiosity than sympathy, and the subsequent sale of the whale shark’s body parts will continue to our collective shame.
Whale sharks (scientifically known as Rhinocodon typus) is a protected species under the Fisheries Act of 1985 through the Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulation 1999.
Under the law, no one can harass, catch, kill, take, possess, sell, buy, export or transport whale sharks unless with express permission. Furthermore, if a whale shark is caught accidentally during a fishing expedition, and if it is alive, it must be released immediately
If the shark is dead, the catching/taking of the fish must be reported to a Department of Fisheries Officer and can only be disposed off in accordance with his or her instructions. Failure to comply is an offence.
Such laws, along with an appropriate awareness campaign, need to be enforced to prevent a shocking repeat of this incident.