Brunei bans catching, landing of all shark species

Harny Abu Khar in Bandar Seri Begawan/The Brunei Times

Bandar Seri Begawan (The Brunei Times/ANN) - The Department of Fisheries will enforce the ban on the catch and landings of all shark species from the waters of Brunei Darussalam.

Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar announced this at the launch of "Celebrate the Sea Festival 2013" in conjunction with World Oceans Day celebration yesterday.

"Furthermore, we will also now officially enforce the ban on the import and trade of shark products which has been in place since August last year," he said, adding that this will also include their sales in the domestic market.

The rationale behind the declaration is: firstly, the concern on food security; and secondly, the environmental consideration. The announcement also made Brunei Darussalam probably the first country in the world to commit to such a cause.

"Fish resources around the waters of Brunei Darussalam, like other country are declining significantly. The fish resources are now about 21 per cent of what they were in 1999 and the dwindling number is mainly due to overfishing," he said.

Meanwhile, shark catches, particularly, are declining significantly over the years. In 1994, the catches were around 40 metric tonnes but they fell to 16 metric tonnes in 2011, although sharks are not the target fish in Brunei Darussalam.

"We know that the sharks are targeted for their fins only, whereas the rest of the body is just discarded, most of the time barely breathing, to die," he said.

"We all know that biologically, sharks occupy an important hierarchy in the marine food chain as higher predators in the marine environment. Any alteration of that level will inevitably result in the disturbance of the existing balance of nature and the marine food web."

YB Pehin Dato Hj Yahya said the ban supported the international instruments namely, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or CITES.

During the recent 16th Conference Parties in Bangkok, Thailand, CITES had added more shark species in its appendices as vulnerable, endangered and threatened. Other endangered and threatened shark species are also listed in International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"The impact of the ban hopefully would decrease the fishing pressure towards shark resources especially in Brunei Darussalam waters or on international waters. This would ensure shark resources of Brunei Darussalam and thus the fisheries resources overall, would be guaranteed to be in preserved state for generations to come," he said.

He added that the ban would help assist in stock recovery and to prevent further species loss culminating in the loss of the marine biodiversity of the region.

YB Pehin Dato Hj Yahya said studies had shown that shark meat may expose oneself to potential dangerous, high levels of methylmercury, an organic form of mercury which is a neurotoxin or a toxin that affects one's nervous system.

"It is hoped that with this ban, it would become a lesson to us that fish resources, especially in Brunei Darussalam are not infinite to be exploited as much as one can," he said.

The World Ocean Day is celebrated worldwide every June 8th to mark and appreciate the insurmountable contribution and importance of the oceans and its marine life.

This year, the Department of Fisheries under MIPR has organised a three-day event that will end today. The event is a collaborative effort with Ocean Environment from Australia.

The three-day event comprised a seminar, workshop and special talks from invited experts, film shows featuring latest marine documentaries, a children's art competition, exhibitions and photo gallery.