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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Move to save sharks, rays in Sabah

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Move to save sharks, rays in Sabah
Published on: Saturday, May 16, 2015
Kota Kinabalu: A civil society collaboration to save sharks and rays in Sabah is on track with a successful first workshop that saw stakeholders sharing scientific data, new reports and research and the outcome of a variety of awareness activities. 
Other key topics discussed at the day-long workshop convened by the Sabah Shark Alliance (SSA) included the legal status of sharks and rays, the Malaysia National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (Plan 2) published last year and the need for responsible consumption of marine products. 
A session to gather feedback from participants was positive, with the idea of SSA entering into a partnership with the relevant government and security agencies to create Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for sharks debated, and the need for people to be able to understand the value of live sharks and rays in terms of what they provide to the environment and economy. 
The attendees arrived at a number of recommendations to protect sharks and rays ranging from locally managed marine areas to creating shark fin free regions, including a short-term restriction on catching manta rays. 
The session saw Sabah Fisheries Department represented by its head for Marine Resource Management Section, Lawrence Kissol, sharing that researchers from the Malaysian Fisheries Department, who will this year do a feasibility study on setting up a shark sanctuary in the State, would be keen to meet with SSA to gather information. 
Kissol also suggested a marine tagal (closing a certain section of the sea to fishing) system similar to what some communities in Sabah are implementing at rivers. 
SSA in a post-workshop statement said it is now assessing all suggestions and key points from presentations for it to further strengthen its three identified strategies on establishing new Marine Protected Areas and/or expanding such sites; banning the capture, trade and/or consumption of sharks and rays apart from promoting best practices in the fishing industry by strengthening law and policy; and increasing awareness on the plight of sharks and rays and the impacts from the shark fin trade. 
"It is clear from this workshop that all stakeholders are supportive of the need to protect sharks and rays. This support is timely because it is clear from the presentations that sharks and rays in Sabah are very heavily overfished and action is needed now to prevent further loss. 
"A number of ideas were brought up both through the question and answer session and at the end of the workshop. We are also pleased to see the active participation of the Sabah Fisheries Department in finding ways to further protect sharks and rays," SSA said. 
At the event, Ming Garden Hotel gave its commitment to not serve sharks fin soup, as part of an on-going effort to encourage more restaurants and hotels to make this bold step. 
The SSA is made up of the Malaysian Nature Society (Sabah branch), Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Shark, Education, Awareness and Survival (SEAS), Scubazoo, Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC), WWF-Malaysia, Shark Stewards and Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP). 

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