Fulfil Commitments in Conservation of Marine Biodiversity, WWF-Malaysia Urge Government | WWF Malaysia

Fulfil Commitments in Conservation of Marine Biodiversity, WWF-Malaysia Urge Government

Posted on 23 August 2013
A whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) on the sea floor.
© Jürgen Freund
23 August 2013, Petaling Jaya: The recent report* in The Star (17 August 2013) confirmed shocking facts on the role Malaysia plays in the global shark trade.

The report revealed the ugly truth of inefficient implementation of international as well as national conservation commitments. Malaysia is now in the league of being one of the biggest players when it comes to shark trade globally, ranking among the top 10 importers and exporters within the period of data collection from 2000-2009 by TRAFFIC.

Tracking back into the history of Malaysia’s commitment in the conservation of the country’s biodiversity, besides being a signatory to the CITES agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993, our Prime Minister, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, 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. However, this commitment falls far short when it comes to sharks.

Malaysian seas contain one of the most diverse varieties of marine flora and fauna in the world. Hence, it is our responsibility to protect the biodiversity of our seas including sharks. These large predators play a crucial role in keeping the ecosystems balanced and allowing populations of other creatures to maintain healthy levels.

Yet, our marine environment is severely threatened and at the brink of collapse, unless something is done to address overfishing. There is also a lack of implementation of conservation measures which jeopardize the livelihoods of the coastal communities, and the tourism industry (resort and dive operators), who depend on a healthy marine environment. Studies have shown that sharks are able to draw in up to US$1,000,000 over their lifetime to the tourism industry**.

WWF-Malaysia is in line with TRAFFIC in urging the government to take further action for immediate impact. The effective implementation of the National Plan of Action on the ground for all states in the country is inevitable.

Stricter regulations in export of shark parts out of the country should be implemented, and monitoring of catches record by fishermen at landing ports should also be done regularly. This is to establish that the catch data is accurate to ensure sustainability of harvest from the sea. Supporting this position, WWF-Malaysia has urged all Malaysians to stop consuming sharks, both fins and meat, by issuing the sustainable seafood guide ***.

The Sabah State Government had stated its intention to ban shark hunting and “finning” under its wildlife conservation laws whereby offenders can be jailed up to three years or fined RM30,000. Sabah wants to have the same legal provision to be included in the federal Fisheries Act 1985. The draft amendment was submitted to the Federal Government last year.

“WWF-Malaysia urges the government to review and consider the draft amendment, which includes a moratorium on shark fishing and the promotion of alternative livelihoods for affected shark fishers or communities. A precautionary approach using a moratorium on shark fishing until populations are assessed and, where needed, given time to rebound, is the best solution for now,” said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma.

“A recovery plan should be put in place and when resident reef shark populations have recovered, some can be protected in fully protected no-take reserves which will support healthy reef ecosystems. Where pelagic sharks are known to aggregate, protected areas can be established to protect them in this vulnerable life-history stage,” he added.

“We are at a stage where habitat protection alone will not be sufficient. It will need to be supported by measures to control take of shark, be it targeted or by-catch. This is especially for areas beyond the coverage of protected area for sharks,” Dr Dionysius said.

While the advocacy for legal protection for sharks in Malaysia is in progress and management plans are being promoted, there are still gaps to be filled with regard to the knowledge we have on the status of shark population and fisheries in Malaysia and the implementation of the government’s commitment. More research has to be carried out and data collection methods from landing ports should be improved.

* The Star (17 August 2013): Malaysia A Key Player in Global Shark Trade, Says Study
** Refer to study from University of Wollongong, here.
*** Refer to SOS 2.0 www.saveourseafood.my

- Ends -

For more information:
Alexa Antal, Communication Manager, WWF-Malaysia (Sabah Office)
Tel: +6088-262420 Email: aantal@wwf.org.my

Yeoh Lin Lin, Head of Communications, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +603-78033772 Email: llyeoh@wwf.org.my

A whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) on the sea floor.
© Jürgen Freund Enlarge
A whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) on the sea floor.
© Jürgen Freund Enlarge