KOTA KINABALU: The shark species sold at the Semporna wet market were not endangered species based on initial investigations by the Sabah Fisheries Department, says Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.
The Deputy Chief Minister said the department’s preliminary look at the pictures published on Facebook and reported by the media was not among those listed as endangered.
The Bamboo Shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum) and another picture of the Horned Ray species are not listed as endangered under the Fisheries Act 1985.
He said there are about 10 types of stingray from the Mobula genus listed as endangered species under the Declaration of the International Trade Act on Endangered Species (CITES) 2008.
Kitingan said there were only around 100 species of sharks and Stingrays listed as endangered compared with the 35,000 listed species that need to be controlled through quotas.
He said that there were a total of 147 shark species and stingrays found in Malaysian waters including Sabah.
“About 13 species are listed as endangered species under the Fisheries Act 1985 (Endangered Species Control Regulations 1999) and the CITES Act 2008 which cannot be caught and exported,” he added.
The Sabah Fisheries Department has never allowed sharks and stingrays, including those listed under CITES, to be exported.
Kitingan, who is state Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Industry Minister, said the Fisheries Department has always taken appropriate steps in protecting endangered fish species through the enforcement of the Fisheries Act 1985 and the CITES Act 2008.
Among them, it has never approved a special licence for any vessel to catch sharks as happened in other countries.
He said the department has also included a “shark finning activity ban” which is the cutting or possession of shark fins on fishing vessels as an additional condition for licences and fishing equipment since Feb 25, 2014.
Offences and violations under Section 25(b) of the Fisheries Act 1985 (Control of Endangered Fish Species 1999) include a fine not exceeding RM20,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or both.
The fines and jail terms are also more severe under the CITES Act 2008 (Act 686) where individuals can be fined RM100,000 per animal/species or imprisonment not exceeding seven years or both. Companies can be fined between RM200,000 and RM2mil for each animal/species under Act 686.
Kitingan said the Fisheries Department has carried out 117 operations so far this year at markets to monitor the sale of fish caught using explosives and fish that are prohibited from sale.
However, he said operations at the Semporna wet market on Tuesday (Aug 8) confirmed that there was no sale of fish categorised as endangered species under the Fisheries Act 1985 and CITES Act 2008.
Following the posting of the picture, Sabah Dive Squad Club president Sim Fui urged the government to put in place a total hunting ban on all species of sharks in the state to protect the underwater creatures as it was key attraction for diving tourism in Semporna waters that is home to Pulau Sipadan.