Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sabah Tourism threatened by shrinking marine resources

KOTA KINABALU: The rapidly depleting marine resources poses a major threat not only to the fishery industry but also affects the tourism sector, according to Sabah Tourism Board’s chairman Dato’ Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin.

He said, Sabah is a world-renowned destination for its natural scenic beauty but to many visitors the true attraction lies in the State’s rich marine ecosystem and the seafood it caters.

By no means an exaggeration, arguably the most important sector supporting the State’s economic growth, perhaps even more than the oil and gas sector, Tengku Adlin said, the tourism sector in Sabah is very much dependent on the marine ecosystem.

But with the population of highly valued fish shrinking fast, Sabah is in real danger of losing its charm, particularly among the sea and seafood-loving travelers.

“It goes without saying that the seafood industry thrives and is a lucrative business and it is closely linked to tourism. In fact, almost all 2.8 million tourists who visited Sabah last year went to seafood restaurants during their stay.

“Visitors from Singapore asked where the good seafood restaurants are the moment they step out of the plane. Even tourists from China asked the same question the moment they arrived,” said Tengku Adlin.

Launching the ‘Live Reef Fish Consumer’ campaign yesterday, he urged restauranteurs and hotel operators in Sabah to serve only fully matured fish to their customers, as harvesting juvenile fish is most destructive to the marine ecosystem.

The campaign, partially funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was initiated by WWF-Malaysia to highlight the increasing pressure the seafood industry has on the marine ecosystem.

The objective is to create awareness on the destructive fishing method associated with the supply of live reef fish to the live reef fish trade (LRFT) and urges key groups, namely restaurant owners, chefs, tourism operators, fishermen and fish farming operators to insist on sustainable cyanide-free fish supply.

The campaign is also targeted at educating and encouraging consumers to opt for farmed fish instead of those caught from the wild as a way to ease the pressure on the wild fish stock and to allow for the natural rejuvenation of their population.

At the event, Tengku Adlin also launched WWF-Malaysia’s “Consumer Help To Save Live Reef Fish” video promoting a shift to aquaculture-based sources of reef fish to reduce pressure on the wild stocks.