Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Saving Semporna’s Sharks

Guest Blog
By Ric Owen

Sharks are apex predators in our oceans. They have been around for over 400 million years and have maintained prey diversity and shaped the coral reef systems into what we see today. Without them the marine biodiversity as we know it would collapse.

Unfortunately, sharks are being systematically wiped out around the world and an extinction of many species is very likely in the coming years if current fishing trends and attitudes towards this beautiful and misunderstood creature do not change and change fast. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, nearly one-third of all shark species are nearly threatened or near threatened with extinction. Some species of sharks, such as the hammerheads, have declined by up to 90% in the last 50 years.

Semporna, on east coast of Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo, is home to over 83 islands, including the world famous dive destinations of Sipadan and Mabul. The Semporna Sea is home to many species of shark, including the extremely rare and elusive Borneo shark, several species of hammerhead shark, and the largest fish in the sea, the graceful whale shark.

In Sabah and Semporna many species of shark are encountered on a daily basis and we are one of the lucky places that can still claim to have relatively healthy shark populations. In order to keep the population this way, local people are proposing to create a shark sanctuary off the coast of Semporna, whereby all species of sharks, rays, and mobulas will be protected from any type of fishing. Additionally, it is proposed that any transportation, transshipment, or landing of these important species will also be prohibited.

The proposal to protect sharks in Semporna is run by Sabah based NGO, Borneo Conservancy and is supported by members of the local community and the tourism industry. It is hoped that within the next 3-4 weeks this proposal will be presented to the state government. Together with the proposal we hope to present the Sabah government with a petition of as many supporters of this sanctuary as possible to show that there is great international interest for such a shark sanctuary. It is crucial that the Semporna Shark Sanctuary get the support of people like you from around the world as it will help show that dive tourism can be a successful and sustainable economic driver for the local community.

By signing the petition in support of protecting Semporna’s sharks you are not only signing for the future of these incredible creatures for future generations, but securing the health of one of the most bio-diverse marine eco systems in the world and the future economy for the thousands of people who make a daily living from ecotourism in the area.

Become a fan of Semporna Shark Sanctuary Facebook and sign their petition to show your support.

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