KOTA KINABALU: Four shark and two ray species are to be protected as endangered under federal fisheries regulations.
The state government, through its Fisheries Department, has proposed that the great hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, winghead shark, oceanic whitetip shark, oceanic manta ray and reef manta ray be covered.
According to the Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) advocacy group, the move to include the six species under the Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulations 1999 was a major step forward in the conservation of marine life.
SSPA president Aderick Chong said it was important to protect the species, which were being fished in large numbers.
The current list of protected marine species includes whale sharks and sawfish, as well as several species of dolphin, whale, dugong and clam.
Under the regulations, no person shall fish for, disturb, harass, catch, kill, take, possess, sell, buy, export or transport any of the specified endangered species without written permission from the director-general of fisheries.
Chong said inclusion of the six, listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in Malaysian federal regulations should be finalised quickly.
“We are keen to continue our support for federal and state agencies to list these species within this year.
“We were present at the multi-stakeholder consultation to draw up this list and view this as a positive step to obtain protection for sharks and rays in Sabah waters,” he said in a statement.
The SSPA also hoped the scalloped hammerhead, silky shark, three species of thresher shark and nine species of devil ray – all listed in Appendix II of CITES – will be given similar protection.
“These species always feature high on the wishlist of divers, particularly scalloped hammerheads and devil rays. Many divers come to Sabah in the hope of encountering one of these incredible animals,” Chong said.
“Sadly, they are being landed on a daily basis so we need the Government to act now before they disappear forever.”
He said SSPA wants to work with the authorities to identify other species that might benefit from such protection, and on the enforcement of laws that regulate activities related to sharks and rays.
Based on Fisheries Department data, Sabah waters have 48 out of the 70 shark species in Malaysia and 65 out of 85 ray species.