There are no laws stopping manta ray and shark slaughter on Mabul Island: Official

Pulau Mabul’s killings of manta rays and shark will continue given the absence of conservation laws to protect them.

Tourists visiting Pulau Mabul (Mabul Island) in Semporna, Sabah, on Feb 18 were left shaken by a ‘horror show’ after witnessing the killing of a shark and manta rays by local fishermen but it seems little will be done about it.

This is because killing of sharks and manta rays at the popular dive spot is legal, said state Fisheries Department director Dr Ahamed Sade in a report by The Star on Feb 22.

He noted that the sharks were not considered protected and not classed as endangered.

The manta rays, although listed as protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), could be consumed domestically.

Only their exportation is deemed illegal, Dr Ahamed said.

“In Sabah, there is no law against catching or consuming these marine species,” he said.

In the meantime, attention is being placed on species conservation elsewhere.

Dr Ahamed said that of the over 100 shark species and 90 types of manta rays in Malaysia, several types are dwindling in numbers.

“These are the species that we are looking at protecting.”

He added that proposals, such as those that aim to establish which shark species should be listed as protected, have been sent to the federal government for action.

The shark and rays species covered under the proposals include the great hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, winghead shark, oceanic whitetip shark, oceanic manta and reef manta, according to the Cites.

Currently, only whale sharks and sawfish are included in Malaysia’s protection list.

In a report by Free Malaysia Today on Feb 21, the Semporna tourism council has called for a meeting with stakeholders to ensure that the slaughters on Pulau Mabul would be conducted away from tourist eyes.

“We will call for a coordination meeting with the relevant stakeholders such as the fishermen’s association, fishing and wildlife authorities as well as marine police to tackle the issue,” said Semporna tourism council chairman Chacho Bulah.

“Although catching and killing manta rays for domestic consumption is not an offence in Sabah, this course of action is important to protect the nation and state’s image to foreign visitors.”

Chacho added that he will try to involve all types of fishermen in the meeting.

However, it will not be an easy feat.

Due to the nomadic lifestyle of the Bajau Laut, or sea gypsies, it would be a challenge to invite them to the meeting.

With the public viewing of the manta ray butchering seen as a “slap to the state’s tourism industry”, he urged relevant authorities, including the Fisheries Department and the district tourism action council to ensure a prevention of similar incidents in future.