Monday, April 11, 2016

Semporna community, tourists applaud shark conservation efforts

SEMPORNA: The local community and tourists in Semporna joined together to applaud the state government’s recent efforts for shark conservation and marine protection.

The support was evident at Shark Week, a conservation event co-organised by Scuba Junkie, the award winning dive operator, and Green Semporna, a community-led conservation organisation based in Semporna.

Shark Week, which is now in its third year, focuses on responsible, reliable information about sharks and rays and their conservation issues and efforts worldwide, particularly the sharks of Sabah and the work of the Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA).

The importance of Sabahs marine ecosystems and the conservation efforts to protect them, by both the Malaysian government and environmental NGOs, were also highlighted during the week.

This is my third visit to Sabah, said Yali Yuan, a tourist from Beijing, China at Shark Week on Pulau Mabul.

I come here every year because of the amazing wildlife, and because I want to dive with sharks. Sabah is so beautiful I have been diving in both Semporna and Kota Kinabalu and I have seen so many different types of sharks and rays. Anything the government is doing to protect this unique place, especially the creation of shark sanctuaries, is to be applauded!

Shark Week was once again an amazing success, with over 200 local school children taking part in conservation activities on the island, as well as hundreds more at Shark Awareness Roadshows at local schools in Semporna.

The Marine Recreation class from Kolej Komuniti, Semporna, visitied Pulau Mabul for a two-day conservation workshop, which included a special section on sharks and rays, specifically the sharks and rays of the Semporna region and the need for another shark sanctuary there.

I enjoyed the conservation workshop, particularly the fish identification lesson and snorkel. But I was really fascinated to find out about the different types of sharks and rays seen in my home area, it seems incredible that such diversity is on my doorstep rivalled by only a handful of places around the world. I think it would be good to have something in place to protect the sharks and rays here, something to keep my home area so special, said one of the students attending the workshop.

Sabah has an amazing wealth of marine biodiversity, not least the number of sharks and rays seen in the area. There are an estimated 63 species of sharks and 68 species of ray in the Semporna region alone, and Sabah in particular is one of the worlds best places to dive and snorkel with sharks, boasting species from the extremely rare and elusive Borneo shark to the largest fish in the sea, the graceful whale shark.

The creation of the three shark sanctuaries in Sabah is a vital step. The sanctuaries will not only protect our wildlife, but will ensure future tourism revenues and provide livelihoods for local people. It is estimated that a shark will bring in US$1.9 million in diving tourism, over its lifetime. Creating sanctuaries for Sabahs sharks makes sound environmental and economical sense, said director of Kolej Komuniti Semporna, Norasmah Jaafar.