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Whale shark caught and chopped up
Published on: Friday, October 17, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: Fishing enthusiasts captured a juvenile whale shark off Marudu Bay, Wednesday night, and towed it to Kg Teritipan where it was chopped into pieces and loaded onto a lorry that headed for a fish meal fertiliser factory in Tuaran, Thursday morning.

Villagers kept the large pectoral, dorsal and tail fins worth hundreds of ringgit in the market as shark fins!

The whale shark – the biggest fish in the world – is facing extinction and thus their action is a blatant, open violation of Malaysian and international laws. Malaysian fisheries laws are clear that any behviour like harassment, disturbance, capture, killing and transportation of this legally protected and endangered species is punishable by imprisonment or fines. The whale shark is listed as an "endangered species". Thus its capture is banned under a schedule in the Fisheries Act 1985, together with species in the dugong, whale, dolphin, giant clams and sawfish groups. A member of the public tipped off UMS lecturer Dr James Alin early Thursday, who immediately headed for Marudu to investigate. On arrival past 11am, he found chopped up pieces of the creature sprawled on the ground and ready to be sent to the fish meal fertiliser factory.

Further probe found that the culprits headed to sea Wednesday evening to cast their Rantau (a kind of trawl net tied each end to the back of two boats).

"The Rantau trawl net is not like other pukat (nets) where fishermen can fix it to poles, go home and then come back to collect the catch. They have to wait overnight from their boats which trawl it along the seabed," Dr James said.

"By 1am, they caught the whale shark in the Sebayan area of Marudu Bay right in front of one of the most beautiful little islands – Pulau Matunggong, where a similar capture happened last year," Dr James said.

"I asked them whether the whale shark was alive or dead when they found it, they claimed it was dead. But how can one say it was dead when they actually saw the animal hit the net and put up such a big struggle that it tore a big hole in their Rantau?" Dr James said.

"I queried that point because the law says any whale shark that runs into a fishing net alive must be freed and put back to sea, not dragged back to shore for slaughter, " he noted.

"They started towing it back at 9am and reached Kg Teritipan by about 11am and chopped it up quickly, a total of 640kg."

"They claimed to have sold the meat at 40 Sen to the waiting 'middleman' for the fish meal factory. It's hard to believe because whale shark meat is a delicacy in China especially if proper freezing and storage facilities are available," Dr James said. "The villagers keptthe huge fins because once dried, they are worth hundreds of ringgit in the upmarket," Dr James said. Dr James is an avid campaigner against destruction of marine life and was responsible for blowing the whistle on the culling of turtles by unscrupulous persons for their meat and shell in Kudat early this year.

A Special Report on a history of whale shark killing in Sabah would be featured in the Daily Express this Sunday.

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