Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sharks also need compassion

Minding the shark

Adopt law to utilise whole shark

I REFER to “Inhumane finning act must be stopped” (The Star, March 12). Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye’s suggestion that shark hunting in Sabah and Malaysia waters be banned is commendable.

In May last year, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjum stated that shark numbers had dramatically fallen to 20% of what they were previously due to shark hunting.

Sabah, he said, would amend its law to ban shark hunting. With immediate effect, the state government also removed shark’s fin from the menu at official functions.

Federal Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid had in September 2007 banned shark’s fin from being served at the ministry’s functions to help conservation of the shark species.

Despite the actions, shark’s fin remains one the most popular and luxurious items on the menus of distinguished hotels and seafood restaurants.

Conservationists report that the normal practice to get the fins from the wild shark population is by removing the dorsal fin of the sharks while the sharks are still alive. The finless sharks are thrown back into the sea, and being unable to swim die slowly.

This conduct is irresponsible, barbarous, cruel and inhumane. Environmentalists have long called for a reduction in demand for shark’s fins.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 1999 recommended an International Plan of Action for Sharks. Even though the recommendations are not legally binding, they encourage member nations to develop their own shark management and protection plan.

As a member country of this international organisation, Malaysia through the Department of Fisheries in 2006 published the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Shark (Malaysia NPOA-Shark).

This plan recommends that where sharks are fished, the entire carcasses should be utilised, not just the fins. Therefore, sharks are not to be killed for the use of their fins only.

However this plan only operates as mere guidelines for Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and has no legal effect.

I propose the Government adopt the Conduct for Responsible Fisheries as a provision in the law relating to fisheries to require the carcasses of the sharks to be retained with their fins to ensure the full usage of the sharks.

The law is in line with the spirit of Malaysia’s commitment at international level to ensure the conservation and management of sharks and their long-term sustainable use.

Melbourne, Australia.

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