KOTA KINABALU – The popularity of shark fin soup consumption among Malaysians fell by almost fifty per cent over the last six months, said World Wildlife Fund Malaysia (WWF) marine head Dr Robecca Jumin.
She pointed out the downward trend is expected to continue in the coming year, driven by more effective shark protection, greater awareness among the public, environmental concerns, and a change in dining culture.
Speaking at a ‘My Fin My Life’ dialogue session with business operators here Monday morning, Robecca said in the past six months, there was a 44 per cent decline in consumption of shark fin soup.
“According to WWF’s 2015 survey (of average consumers), respondents said (their change in attitude towards shark consumption was self-driven), but social media and environmental non-governmental organisations (played a role), ” Robecca was quoted as saying by NST online.
She added that most shark fin soup dishes were served in restaurants during family gatherings or special occasions such as wedding receptions, especially among the Chinese.
Worldwide, about 100,000 sharks are killed each and every year for their fins, as well as liver oil and cartilage.
From 2000 to 2010, Malaysia ranked 9th among the world’s top 20 shark catchers, and 3rd as importer of fins. On average, 84 per cent of imported shark fins are consumed domestically.
Meanwhile, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun warned that the Philippines could surpass the state as a tourist destination unless shark finning is banned here.
He said that failure to protect shark species in the state’s waters could make Sabah less attractive for diving, an activity that is currently one of the state’s biggest draws.
“The potential in Southern Philippines for diving is great. They have among the highest marine biodiversity sites which will attract divers but there are security risks there.
“But Duterte is taking care of that now,” said Masidi, referring to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on Southern Philippines militants, at the same seminar.
“If we are not careful, and we do not solve this shark fin issue, we will let our neighbours overtake us,” he was quoted by MalayMail online.
He said there was urgent need to find a solution as the diving industry brings in up to RM380 million in tourism receipts every year and 80 per cent of divers expect or hope to see sharks.
“Are we going to let the industry that employs so many of our locals be threatened?” he said in his speech.
The state government has claimed it was powerless to enforce such a ban as the matter came under the purview of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry in Putrajaya.
“We are not asking for the law to extend to West Malaysia or Sarawak ― it’s just a small clause for us,” he said.
Masidi said that he has discussed the issue with Natural Resources and Environment minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, whom he said agreed to consider the matter.