The Malaysian state of Sabah, known for its world-class diving sites, is seeking to ban shark fishing to protect the species, which draws thousands of tourists each year, a minister said yesterday.
Sabah State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun said the state government hopes the law can be changed by the end of the year to impose a blanket ban on killing sharks, which are mainly hunted for their fins to make soup.
“We want to make sure that the ban is a blanket ban of all types of sharks in Sabah,” he said.
“Tourists come to see the rich variety of marine life that we have in Sabah and that includes sharks. It makes economic sense for us to protect our sharks,” he added. “The moment they are gone, people will go elsewhere.”
Masidi said 42,000 divers, two-thirds of them foreigners, visited the state last year, bringing in more than 190 million ringgit (US$64 million) in revenue.
He said the state is currently consulting with Malaysia’s attorney general to revise a federal law and introduce the ban in Sabah.
He added that over the past 25 years, about 80 percent of the state’s sharks had disappeared and they could now only be spotted at four sites.
Masidi could not say how much the trade in shark fins was worth, but a bowl of the soup, which is considered a delicacy in parts of Asia, especially among Chinese diners, can easily cost more than 100 ringgit (around US$35), he said.
In 2007, Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment Ministry struck shark’s fin soup off menus at official functions in an effort to aid conservation efforts.
Traffic, an international network that monitors the trade in wildlife, said early this year that Malaysia was the world’s 10th biggest catcher of sharks.
Worldwide up to 73 million sharks are killed every year, primarily for their fins, it said.