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NGO compiling data on shark sightings
Published on: Saturday, January 12, 2019
By: Leonard Alaza

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) is engaging with divers to help log sharks sightings around Sabah’s reefs, a project it hopes would provide all stakeholders and policy makers a clearer idea about the species’ current population.

SSPA Chairman Aderick Chong said divers’ observations would greatly contribute in providing a body of evidence which the association could use to counter assumptions and advocate for policy change.

“Many still assume that because there are still shark landings, there are many of them out there. For all we know, we may not have many of them anymore.

“But it’s hard for us to say for now, not until we have collected data from divers’ observations,” he said.

SSPA’s project, entitled “Log sharks sightings around Sabah’s reefs”, can be found at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/log-sharks-sightings-around-sabah-s-reefs.

The shark observation project is to determine whether there are any more sharks or what type of sharks still remain in the reefs of Sabah. 

“Every diver must record an observation. If no sharks are seen, just take a shot of the blue sea. A photo and location would do. This is a vital piece of information that may be used to show policy makers to ban shark fishing entirely,” Chong explained.

He called on as many divers to participate in the project which is crucial for the survival of sharks in Sabah.

Amid a high demand for shark fins in Asia which has led to the slaughter of tens of millions of sharks every year, studies have shown that they are worth far more alive than dead.

It has been reported that in Sabah, they contribute some RM220 million to the economy.

In view of their invaluable contribution not only to the economy but also to the ecosystem, Chong reiterated his call for all species of sharks to be listed for protection under Federal or State laws as this would make it easier when it comes to enforcement.

 

He proposed that the government could later take off some common sharks from the list of protection.

Previously, Chong had highlighted the dramatic decline in the number of sharks and rays being landed around Sabah, citing figures by the Fisheries Department which attributed it to the increased security efforts and adverse weather conditions.

He had said, however, the landing assessment was not fully representative of the population status of sharks in our waters, and called for further research on population dynamics, ecology, spawning and aggregation areas.

It has been noted that sharks play an important role in the ecosystem by maintaining the species below them in the food chain and serving as an indicator for ocean health.

They also weed out the old and sick in fish populations, thus, ensuring the long-term health of the fish stocks and provides balance to the ecosystem.

Chong had reminded that taking sharks out of the ecosystem would not protect the population of other fishes but instead cause imbalance in the ecosystem, and impact the fish stocks.

He had also warned that Sabah risks losing the millions of ringgit if the exploitation of sharks and rays continues to the point where they are not commonly encountered.

“Despite facing a lot of challenges, we will continue our advocacy. Let’s wait for the divers share with us their observation under water,” he added. - Leonard Alaza



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