PETALING JAYA: Rapidly declining shark sightings in Sabah serve as a forewarning that the future of the tourism industry in the state is at stake, Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) Chairman Aderick Chong Hee Tat said.
“It’s a wake-up call for us. Shark sightings in the state are becoming increasingly rare and some people have even told me that there are no more sharks near Mabul Island,” he told FMT when contacted.
He was responding to an earlier report by Malay Mail Online, quoting the state’s Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun, as saying the Philippines could surpass Sabah in the tourism industry unless shark-finning is banned.
He echoed similar sentiments as Masidi, pointing out that the moment Phillippine President Rodrigo Duterte manages to eliminate militant groups in southern Philippines, eco-tourists would abandon Sabah.
“We are definitely competing with the Philippines.”
Shark-finning in the state will also scare off many international tourists and it will leave a bad image of Sabah, Chong said.
“Tourists come to Sabah expecting to see sharks in our waters. But instead, if they see sharks being chopped up into pieces at the beach, it will definitely make the rounds on social media.”
Masidi was also quoted as saying that there was an urgent need for a solution, considering that the diving industry contributes RM380 million to the tourism sector each year, with 90 per cent of workers in the industry being native Sabahans.
Chong said: “The tourism industry is employing many Sabahans and if that sector collapses, our people are going to lose a lot of jobs.
“We are basically missing the whole big picture because a lot of money and jobs are at stake.”
Chong stressed that legislation concerning the protection of sharks must be quickly implemented in the state before it’s too late.