Sabah to have its own enactment to protect marine life, says minister

Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Junz Wong says a lot of things are not covered by the Fisheries Act, such as the size of fish or lobsters caught.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah wants to establish its own fisheries laws to better protect its resources as well as preserve the state’s marine life, including sharks.

Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Junz Wong noted that having the laws would provide Sabah the authority to enforce matters related to fisheries.

He said his ministry is drawing up a blueprint on policies to help increase the income of farmers and fishermen in Sabah.

“The second phase will be enacting our own fisheries enactment — Sabah doesn’t have its own fisheries enactment. The federal government is the one calling the shots.

“This will cover a lot of things that are not covered by the Fisheries Act, such as what size of fish or lobsters you can catch or the size of crabs you can sell.

“We must have our own laws because we are now telling people not to catch this and that, but there are no laws to enforce them.

“So that’s the problem we are facing … the same with the shark issue,” the Tanjung Aru assemblyman said after an event at Pulau Gaya near here today.

Recently, Malaysia was among 40 countries that objected to a proposal to protect 18 species of sharks and rays under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The CITES meeting, held in Geneva, saw 102 countries voting in favour of the proposal.

The federal Fisheries Department defended this move, explaining that the fish were not “targeted species”, but are caught unintentionally by fishermen when other species are targetted.

Wong said Sabah can later consider including these 18 species when its own enactment is implemented.

“The state Cabinet will decide whether the sharks and rays should be included in the new enactment so we can ban shark fishing altogether in Sabah.

“There will come a time but now it’s too early … it’s not up to us to say we want to protect or not,” he said.

However, he said Sabah does not have a real problem with demands for shark meat, particularly in the making of shark fin soup.

“Our hotels here don’t really serve shark fin any more, so it’s not an issue,” Wong said.

Meanwhile, he said his ministry is looking at disallowing the use of trawlers, which he attributed to causing the mass destruction of marine life and corals in Sabah.

“I’m not supposed to announce first but in our blueprint, one portion would be a policy on trawlers — that we should be banning trawlers.

“Not now but we are going to ban it in the near future so trawler operators have time to actually adjust themselves, knowing when it will be stopped.

“This is because these trawlers are the ones catching most of the sharks as they are not following the rules on net size. A lot of the marine life and corals are being destroyed,” Wong said.