KOTA KINABALU: An online petition drive has been kicked off by conservationist and divers in their bid to protect sharks and other marine creatures in Sabah east coast Semporna.
They are hoping to push for the setting up of the Semporna Shark Sanctuary which covers some 83 islands including the world renown diving haven of Sipadan and its neighbouring Mabul island.
A Sabah based non-governmental organisation Borneo Conservancy is promoting the move for the petition that has already received some 5,000 supporters and at least 16 organisations worldwide.
They are hoping to get at least 50,000 supporters though organisers said 10,000 would be enough for them to promote the idea of setting up a sanctuary in Semporna waters.
According to a spokesman, the local community and the tourism industry supported the Semporna Shark Sanctuary proposal.
They are hoping to submit the proposal to the state government once they get sufficient signatures.
They explained that a third of all shark species are nearly extinct and some species of sharks such as the Hammerhead have declined by up to 90% in the last 50 years.
Semporna is home over 83 Islands, including the world famous dive destinations of Sipadan.
The Semporna Sea is also home to many species of shark – from the extremely rare and elusive Borneo and Hammerhead shark to the largest fish in the sea, the graceful whale shark, the spokesman said in explaining the rationale.
He said sharks played an important role in marine diversity and if it went extinct the marine biodiversity could collapse.
In Semporna many shark species are encountered on a daily basis and we are one of the lucky places that can still say that we can ‘prevent’ their decline instead of having to ‘reintroduce and rehabilitate, he said.
He explained that though they were supportive of the states total ban of shark hunting and finning in Sabah, it would be important for Semporna to be made a sanctuary as it could be focused and easier to enforce.
The whole of Sabah would be difficult to enforce shark hunting but if you just focus just in Semporna it will be enforceable, the spokesman said, explaining that most of the sharks were in the Semporna waters.
The petition is available at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/support-a-semporna-shark-sanctuary-and-the-future-of-our-oceans/or can also be accessed via its Facebook page Semporna Shark Sanctuary.
By MUGUNTAN VANAR