The resort island of Pulau Mabul (or Mabul Island) in Semporna, Sabah, is well-known for its water villages, diving hotspots and abundant marine life.
However, Chinese and Western tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of some of these magnificent creatures in the wild were left with a rude shock on Feb 18 after being subject to a live viewing of these animals being killed in plain sight.
Photos have emerged of two oceanic manta rays, 13 devil rays and a shark being slaughtered by six fishermen, according to a report by Free Malaysia Today.
In the report, Sabah Shark Protection Association head, Aderick Chong is quoted as saying: “The tourists, after failing to see the manta rays during their diving trip today, have expressed shock at seeing the manta rays being caught and slaughtered instead.”
“Basically, it’s a horror show for them.”
Chong added that the manta ray was supposed to be gazetted as protected species under the federal Fisheries Act for Sabah in 2017. Yet the current status of the protection is left unknown.
Efforts have also been made to protect the dwindling shark population.
The federal Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry had agreed to ban the hunting and finning of hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, winghead shark, and oceanic wingtip shark, on the recommendation of the Sabah Fisheries Department, according to The Star.
However there has not been any official word on whether the ban has been gazetted and passed through the various legal requirements of the law, said Chong.
The Malay Mail Online reported that a previous ban had been proposed in Sabah to prohibit shark fishing and finning at all six of its marine parks by the end of 2017 through an amendment to the Sabah Parks Enactment.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said in a statement that the ban within marine parks, which covers 8% of the state’s waters, would help in taking action against those caught shark hunting.
In support of the ban, Masidi said that efforts need to be made to protect sharks in Sabah waters as their preservation in the wild is deemed more lucrative than when being sold as seafood.