Outrage Over Sharkfishing in Mabul

Photos, uploaded today, documenting the ongoing shark fishing in the Mabul area, are making the rounds on social media and causing uproar.

Boat with sharks passing by a divecenter on Mabul Island.

Mabul (Sabah, Malaysia), is the one of the nearest islands to neighboring Sipadan. Sipadan is generally regarded as one of the world’s best divesites, and therefore hugely popular with divers. So popular in fact, that the amount of divers that can dive there every day is limited through a permit system. Since 2004 there is no construction and tourism allowed on the island of Sipadan itself, forcing the tourist industry to move to neigboring islands. In 2009 Sipadan island and the surrounding waters – a mere 168 square kilometers – were declared as a Marine Protected Area, to be governed and protected by The Board Of Trustees Of The Sabah Parks. Who, interestingly enough, don’t mention any actual conservation goals on their organization website, but do include bulletpoints like ‘being financially strong’ and making the parks ‘nature tourism hotspots’.

Sharks landed on Mabul
Sharks landed on Mabul

A British couple on holiday posted more photos of sharks (species unidentifiable from the photos) being brought on land and subsequently finned.

Mabul is not part of the Sipadan protected area, so fishing activities are not regulated. So while technically maybe allowed, it’s still painful to see that the fishing of sharks and (mobula) rays continues in an area that almost completely depends on income from tourism. Not just tourism, but tourists that come specifically to see these creatures!

In a reaction on twitter, the Sabah Minister for Tourism, Culture & Environment indicates that it’s not his policy, and that it’s up to the federal goverment to expand the marine park and change the regulations.

While that might be true, surely you can apply some pressure to make sure this change does happen, minister? 

The above tweet indicates that the Mister is not very happy about the lack of protection for sharks, but his “Federal says no” just reminds me of this (click if you want to get at least some laughs from the whole situation).

While the fact that the witnessed shark fishing practices are leaving a “bad memory on an otherwise brilliant holiday” seems to be the least of the problems here, it is true that the tourism industry could be seriously damaged if this continues. No sharks = no tourists, simple as that. The tourists on Mabul stay there not only to shuttle back and forth to Sipadan, but to dive around Mabul itself as well, so perhaps it’s time to expand the protected area. And, you know, not only for the sake of the tourists.


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