By Harry Jonas, 30 July 2017
On 13 April 2017, the Fisheries Department held the last of a series of consultations about which shark and ray species that are listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to include as ‘endangered species’ under the Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulations (1999). Present at the meeting were governmental officials, individuals from the fishing community and non-governmental organisations, among others.
At the meeting, Fisheries Department officials reminded participants that The Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulations (1999) is a regulation protecting a list of animals including whale sharks (Rhinocodon typus Smith) and several species of dolphin as well as some whales, dugongs and clams. The Regulations state that no person shall fish for, disturb, harass, catch, kill, take, posses, sell, buy, export or transport any ‘endangered species’ specified except with written permission from the Director-General. To do so constitutes an offence. These Regulations currently only protect the following shark or ray species: the whale shark and sawfish. They stated that they are actively considering adding the following fish to the list of ‘endangered species’:
- Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran),
- Smooth Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna zygaena),
- Winghead shark (Eusphyra blonchii),
- Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharinus longimanus),
- Oceanic Manta (Manta birostris) and
- Reef manta (Manta alfredi).
The Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) will back up this move with research on:
- Value of sharks in local markets,
- Value of sharks and rays in the dive industry, and
- Research pulling together all other related work.
The SSPA is also conducting a schools awareness program to educate young people about the importance of sharks and rays within the marine environment. Looking ahead, the SSPA plans to co-develop a Sabah Vision for Sharks and Rays in early-2018 to establish a progressive agenda for sharks and rays from 2018-2030.