KOTA KINABALU: Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, is ‘unapologetic’ about his stand on the issue of shark fin harvesting and shark killing, saying sharks played an important role as an economic driver in the tourism industry.
Masidi, who opened the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Malaysia and Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) business dialogue, ‘My Fin My Life,’ also said the shark population in the state is a source of many jobs for locals.
“Every year, foreign divers come over to dive in Sabah and 80 per cent of them want to see sharks in the wild, among others.
“We gross about RM350 to RM380 million each year from the diving industry and that’s a huge amount of money, but aside from that, the industry creates jobs, especially for locals.
“By our own reluctance to go full steam ahead to protect the sharks, we are actually giving an opportunity to our neighbouring countries to grab the tourism windfall that we are currently experiencing.
“We’re going to lose a lot of jobs due to this. The first people to lose jobs are locals, and the tourism industry is the only industry in Sabah, even probably in Malaysia, with the highest percentage of local employment.
“In Sabah, about 90 over per cent of tourism employees are local. So, we are basically saying that in the name of shark fin soup, we make sure that 90 per cent of Sabahans in the country are out of jobs,” he said.
Masidi went on to say that even the food industry will eventually lose if sharks are continually hunted and killed for their fins, adding that it’s a temporary feeling of relief that they are protecting a small industry, but killing a much bigger one in the long run.
Nevertheless, work is being done for the protection of sharks in Sabah waters, as Masidi reiterated that all marine parks will be converted into a shark sanctuary, as was passed by the State Assembly.
He added that Sabah Parks was also currently going through the barriers and legal issues and, if the need arose, would bring up the necessity for amendments in the law to ensure that the marine parks really acted as a sanctuary for sharks to be protected.
“My personal hope is that the marine parks will be the first step towards the total banning of shark hunting and shark killing in Sabah.
“We are here not just to live our life, but to prepare the lives of the future generation. This is an emotional issue, so to speak. Some are passionately for the protection of sharks, while others are not agreeable with what we are fighting for.
“My job here is not to condemn those who do not agree with me, but I can say that I am for shark protection and I’m not apologetic with my stand.
“To me, the proposition is very simple: either we finish all the sharks that are available in Sabah and that’s the end of it, or protect them and turn them into an economic driver of the tourism industry and make money out of them,” he said.
Also present at yesterday’s dialogue was Kota Kinabalu City Mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai, who similarly expressed his support for the protection of sharks.
Source : The Borneo Post