Shark Conservation in Malaysian Waters

Written by on November 18, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law, Sharks

Editor’s Note — Cheryl Rita completed her MS in Marine Science, Policy and Law at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS), University of Southampton, UK. She is presently the Head of the Centre for Coastal and Marine Environment at the Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA), a policy research institute set up by the Malaysian Government to look into matters relating to Malaysia’s interest at sea.

Review of the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks
By Cheryl Rita

The rapidly dwindling shark population due to the high level of exploitation has raised widespread concern and calls for added measures for their conservation. Substantial declines have been seen in many shark species, and management has proven elusive despite assessments on shark catch and trade on a species-specific basis to detect potential overexploitation due mainly to difficulties in identifying their products. The demand for shark fins is often blamed as the main contributory factor to the demise of the population; however many people are not aware that shark body parts are also used in many products that are often not easy to identify such as in cosmetics, souvenirs, and in medicinal goods.

With more than 60 species identified, the diversity of sharks in Malaysia is among the most abundant in Southeast Asia. Advancements in research have led to identification of new species in Malaysian waters where seven new species were recorded from 2005-2011. Fisheries activities have however threatened and affected shark population over the years.

Considering the need for conservation, a National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA – Shark) has been developed by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia (DoFM) covering the period 2006-2010 and extended to 2013-2017 under NPOA-Shark (Plan 2). A consultative meeting on reviewing the draft plan was recently hosted by the DoFM, bringing together more than 70 participants from the various stakeholders represented by government and non-governmental organisations, fisheries associations and boat owners.

The author represented the Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA) at the review forum, and hence shares some details from the discussions.

Shark fins drying on a sidewalk.

Shark fins drying on a sidewalk. Photo credit: nicwn via photopin cc.

The NPOA – Shark (Plan 2) is essentially an improved version that is based on experiences and lessons learnt from its predecessor. It addresses emerging developments and needs, gaps and issues identified from the earlier implementation, as well as emphasises on education and awareness building among stakeholders. It differs from the initial plan by including prioritised timelines for short, medium and long-term strategies to achieve objectives, is action-oriented, and stresses on balancing the social-economic-ecological aspects in addressing shark conservation and management in Malaysia.

Overall, the forum managed to gather critical views and suggestions on improving the action plan. Among others, the requirement for assessment and monitoring were emphasised to ensure its effectiveness, besides the need for data collection by species groups, more efforts to address ‘bycatch’, as well as research and funds required to do so. While emphasising ecosystem based management, the meeting agreed on identifying feeding and nursery sites to be established as protected areas or fisheries prohibited areas for shark conservation.

MIMA applauds the DoFM for their efforts, and will continue to cooperate and provide views and inputs where necessary.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

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