This article was last updated at 11:05am on May 7, 2019.
With crystal clear waters and countless marine species thriving among its coral reefs, Malaysia’s Sipadan is regarded as one of the best places to dive in the world.
But shocking footage of butchered hammerhead sharks uploaded by a diver on Friday (May 3) is now highlighting a much darker and unknown side of the area.
In the video uploaded by Facebook user Gareth Jones, butchered shark remains such as hammerhead shark heads can be seen lying in plain sight on the seabed.
Identifying the location as Mabul island, the diver wrote that he was shocked when he saw the slaughtered sharks in the sea.
Mabul island is located around 20 minutes away by speedboat from Sipadan.
“I am not a shark expert but the images clearly show slaughtered hammerheads in the reefs off Mabul Island,” he wrote.
“Why should tourists travel to see the world famous Sipadan sharks if they are being hunted to extinction,” he asked.
When contacted, the diver from London told Business Insider in an interview that he had been to Mabul island seven times before and had done “several hundred” dives in the area, but had never come across such a ghastly scene before.
“I have never seen anything like this before although the dive resort told me they have seen it before,” he said.
“The video of these butchered sharks is very shocking, especially in an area where so many people travel thousands of miles to dive with these majestic creatures. I hope this video demonstrates that sharks in this area need more protection,” he added.
Consistently ranked as one of the top three diving sites in the world, Sipadan’s waters are known to house many species of sharks, including hammerheads and sometimes whale sharks.
In an email, non-profit and non-governmental group Shark Savers Malaysia told Business Insider that there are at least 67 species of sharks in Malaysia’s waters. Of these, 70 per cent can be found in Sabah, the group said.
Citing the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, a spokesman from the group told Business Insider that Malaysia was in 2015 ranked as the world’s ninth largest producer of shark products and the third largest importer in terms of volume.
In addition, Malaysia is the largest importer of shark fin in the Asean region, accounting for about 71.5 per cent of the Asean market, and 20 per cent of total world imports, the spokesman said.
“As advocates from the city discouraging consumers from indulging on a bowl of shark fin soup and educating (the) public (in) ocean conservation awareness, having to see this videos is heartbreaking,” the spokesman said.
The group also said that butchering of sharks in the seas is a common way of making species identification difficult, as it is impossible to distinguish what species shark meat or fins sold in the wet market are from.
“Much of this catch is underestimated or unaccounted for in official records,” it added, while urging the Malaysian government to “act fast” to prevent the endangerment of shark species in Sabah.
Another group, the Sabah Shark Protection Association, shared the video with its followers urging for “full protection” of all sharks, and not just of certain species.