Your vanity my doomsday

Shark Awareness Programme (Part 2 of 2)
By Mun Yee San, Sin Chew Daily, 23 June 2016
Translated by Tan Whei Li for MNS Marine

sinchewreport2“What is your first impression of a shark?”

This was the first question asked by the Service Manager of SSI Nick Khoo during the 4-day-3-night Shark Awareness Programme organised by the MNS Marine Group.

Participants were divided into groups to draw their first impressions of the shark. Most of them drew sharp teeth and human fear. Some of them drew a shark with sad face.

Khoo said that the public has a fear of sharks and prejudice against them. In 2007, in a survey conducted on 604 people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, 89.1% of people said the Great white shark would come to mind when they thought of sharks, while 82.4% said the first thing that came to mind was that sharks are humans and were dangerous.

Where does the fear of sharks come from? Khoo pointed out that sensational media coverage and thrill-seeking in the entertainment industry, in addition to ignorance, are the causes of this fear.

He said that 70% of our fear originates from personal experience, media reporting and were developed from childhood. Only 30% of our fears are genetic, such as fear of the dark, the unknown, sharp teeth, and the risk of injury.

Ignorance of the Importance of Sharks

Khoo emphasised that the most common misconception about sharks is that sharks eat humans. As a result, people are not compassionate towards sharks and they don’t feel anything wrong about consuming sharks.

“They don’t know the important role of sharks in the marine ecosystem. Assuming all the top predators in the ocean are gone, what do you think will happen?” he asked.

“First, the herbivores would reproduce in large quantities and plants would be wiped out. When the population of plants decreases, herbivores would slowly decrease. Eventually, all the living organisms would either migrate or die of hunger.”

He strongly disagrees with consuming shark’s fin soup as a symbol of pride among Chinese. “The fin is actually tasteless. Shark’s fin soup is still a popular dish during weddings and company dinners because people want to safeguard their pride and egos.”

What happens if we don’t eat shark’s fins but imitation fins? He said, if we continue to consume shark’s fin, even if it is imitation, this will still give the impression of shark’s fin as a symbol of pride.

“So, when the shark’s fin becomes rare, its price will go up. The rich will keep offering higher prices for shark’s fin. And this vicious cycle will give people the wrong impression that consuming shark’s fin soup is important in Chinese’s culture.”

He emphasised that consuming shark’s fin soup is not cultural. Similar to footbinding, it is a bad practice that needs to be abolished.

Sharks are the Top Predator

Lastly, Khoo emphasised that the shark is the top predator. It cannot be treated as a pet. However, close contact between the shark and diver is happening too often. “Some divers are becoming bolder because shark tourism is gaining popularity and there have been very few reported shark attacks yearly.”

100 MILLION SHARKS ARE KILLED YEARLY
Biological Death of Great White Shark

Nick Khoo pointed out that 100 million sharks are killed for sport and shark’s fins yearly. In merely 6 years, the Great white shark has been declared biologically dead. The population of Hammerhead sharks has reduced by 89% and Blue shark by 76%. The number of shark species in Malaysia is now only 10%.

“Even baby sharks are not spared. Shark’s fin mafia are marketing the fins of baby sharks for its tenderness.”

He said, as a result, there are now only a handful of shark offspring. The gestation period of sharks is long and they take many years to mature. Hence, the consumption of sharks has to be stopped.

From the health point of view, shark products are toxic. The bioaccumulation of methyl mercury in the body of shark is high because it is the top predator. Methyl mercury can damage our nervous system, cause cancers, lead to impotence and harm fetuses.

“40% of the tested shark meat was found to have higher than permitted levels of methyl mercury. A legal case won by WildAid Organisation in the United States, once again proved the methyl mercury content in shark’s fins.”

Khoo added that we not only destroy the marine ecosystem and the survival of mankind, but also poisoning ourselves, so what is the logic of consuming shark products?

SHARKS DO NOT REACT TO HUMAN’S BLOOD
Nick Khoo: Sharks Mostly Consume Sick and Injured Fish

When conducting the Shark Specialty Course, Nick Khoo aimed to explain the body language of the shark when a diver meets a shark. Most importantly, he wants the participants to understand why sharks attack.

He emphasised that most sharks eat fish and tend to hunt down sick or injured fish. As such, the shark is also called the “Police of Marine Ecology”.

“Often, humans are bigger in size as compared to a shark. To the sharks, we are the aliens and are not their natural food.”

He also told participants that in a Discovery Channel documentary, a test was conducted on whether sharks had a taste for human blood. When fish blood was put into the water, sharks were attracted to it. But when human blood was put into the water, there was no response from the sharks.

Participant Steven Wong (26), an Environmental Executive Officer who has knowledge of tropical aquatic animals, was surprised to hear about the test. He had thought human blood could attract or excite sharks, but that turned out to be a myth.

Seven Senses

Khoo continued to explain that shark have seven senses, i.e. hearing, sight, pressure senses, electronic impulses, touch and taste.

Many experts say when sharks encounter an unfamiliar object including a diver, they use different senses to detect the object and will react differently at different distances. At the furthest distance, i.e. the perception point, there is hardly or little risk of a shark attack. At a closer distance, i.e. the curiosity zone, it is important the diver stays cautious. At the close-up zone, there is a potential of a shark attack.

“When sharks detect a diver, they will turn around and swim away quickly. If they are curious, they will cast an eye on the diver. Even in the close-up zone, the sharks will circle around the diver and swim away. At this distance, sharks use primarily the pressure senses.

“However, with the right conditions, certain sharks may be more curious about the diver. In the close-up zone, this can be very dangerous for the diver. Under certain circumstance, the sharks may want to use their touch senses to feel the person or the unfamiliar object. Finally, they might want to smell or taste it.”

He said when a shark touches a diver, it is merely out of curiosity. Often, it will quickly swim away. “But, sharks also use taste to sense an unfamiliar object. They might want to nibble the object. Sometimes, they don’t even leave their teeth marks.”

Close-up Zone Is Regarded As an Attack Zone

According to expert definition, every human-shark encounter, including a rub or a nudge in the close-up zone is regarded as a shark attack.

He said, all known shark attacks are recorded in the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) and the Global Shark Attack File (GSAF). According to the statistics, there is an average of 63 cases of shark attack per year globally. Among these were only 3 death cases.

He pointed out that the probability of shark attacks is much lower than that of winning a lottery, because only one shark attack occurs out of 250 millions swimmers, divers and surfers.

Nibbling Resulting in Excessive Bleeding

He therefore pointed out it is incorrect to say that sharks kill. Even a person who dies in a shark encounter is usually not because of an attack from a shark. The most common cause of fatal accident is because of nibbling from a shark out of curiosity. Due to their razor-sharp teeth, a victim often dies due to excessive bleeding.

“Sharks are not man-eaters that swallow a human without a trace, as portrayed in movies.”

SIX REASONS THAT SHARKS ATTACK

Since most sharks will turn around to swim away when they see divers, why do incidents of shark attacks still happen?

Khoo explained that sharks are triggered to attack for six reasons: bait is thrown into the water, causing the sharks to be confused; their senses become overloaded; competing for food; the different personalities of sharks; regular feeding of sharks; and divers treating sharks as pets. The more factors occur at the same time, the higher the risk of sharks attacking.

Khoo strongly disagreed with using bait to attract sharks. He said this allows tourists to see more sharks but little do they know this will change the behaviour of sharks.

“There are two ways of baiting. One is to seal food in a container and allow its smell to lure the sharks. However, sharks will stay away. Another type of baiting is to put food into the water. This method is more dangerous. When the sharks are lured by the smell of food, they will start to hunt.”

Other than putting food in the water, regular feeding can also lead to shark attacks. Sharks can develop a habit of waiting for food if they are fed regularly. This is not natural behaviour of sharks, and they will eventually stop being afraid of humans.

“There are too many similar cases. For example, tiger sharks migrated along the coastal region of South Africa a few years ago. But today, they only stay at a region because they are used to be fed regularly.

The personality of sharks is also a reason for shark attacks. No two sharks have the same personality. Only an expert can distinguish between “attacker” and “player”.

PLEASE JOIN IN “MY FIN MY LIFE” CAMPAIGN

Before the course ended, Nick Khoo made all participants commit to talking to three persons to whom they would promote the importance of shark conservation, so that more people will say no to shark’s fin soup.

The “My Fin My Life” campaign, led by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), started in January this year and will end in July. It is a joint campaign that involves the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Marine Group and a few NGOs.

Khoo said the “My Fin My Life” campaign needed to obtain a million pledges from Malaysians to say no to shark’s fin soup. With this, we will be able to show the restaurants that there is no demand on shark’s fin soup and hopefully the dish will phase out.

Chan Beng Beng:Organisation, A Louder Voice

Chan Beng Beng (50), who is in the communications industry, said what is frustrating is that efforts from a single person are limited and cannot reach out to all. An organisation, on the other hand, can give a louder voice.

Wong added that if there were a choice, he would choose to have no shark’s fin on menus. He has also refused to eat shark’s fin soup at banquets. On the other hand, he feels guilty wasting what has already been cooked and served. As such, he believes only a collective voice from the public will be able to pressure the restaurants not to serve shark’s fin soup.

Photo Captions:

1. Two hundred millions of sharks are killed for the appetite of mankind(photo: Sharkproject)

2. Sharks have seven senses. Many experts say, when a shark encounters an unfamiliar object including a diver, they use different senses to detect the object and will react differently at different distance or zone. These are the perception point, curiosity zone and close-up zone. (Photo:Sharkproject

3. Happy together: MNS Marine Group volunteer Wong Siew Lyn,giving a souvenir to Nick Khoo.

4. All participants will obtain an electronic certificate issued by Scuba Schools International (SSI) once they complete the Specialty Shark Diving Course. Picture shows an electronic certificate of Ivy Loh.

5. Participants and the organising committee showing the sign for sharks to indicate their appreciation of sharks and the marine ecosystem. Thumbnail picture shows the form given to all participants at the end of the course to write down the names of three persons to whom they are committed to promoting shark conservation.(Photo: Sin Chew)

Photos: Ivy Loh, Angeline Siok and Tan Whei Li

Click here for Part 1 of this report.

Advertisements

Enjoy snorkelling whilst caring for corals

Shark Awareness Programme (Part 1 of 2)
By Mun Yee San, Sin Chew Daily, 22 June 2016
Translated by Tan Whei Li for MNS Marine

sinchewreport1

Do you still consume shark’s fin soup? Do you know sharks are the top predators in the ocean, and without them, there would be no beautiful marine ecology? Do you know we have up to 63 species of shark in our ocean, and without them, there would be no stunning underwater world to attract tourists from all over the world to come to snorkel and scuba dive in our ocean?

When thousands of tourist flock to an island on a holiday, how many of them really know how to snorkel and minimise the harm to the marine ecosystem while admiring the beautiful marine life?

A Sin Chew reporter was invited by the Selangor Branch Marine Special Interest Group of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) to join 24 members on a “Shark Awareness Programme” at Tenggol Island in early June this year. A Specialty Shark Diving Course and a Snorkelling Course were conducted by Scuba Schools International (SSI), allowing us to learn about sharks and snorkelling techniques, and be responsible tourists in the marine environment.

Tenggol Island is a rocky island about 50 hectares in size. Thirty percent of it is covered by corals. The seawater here is so clear that one would be able to see all the hard and soft corals and all kinds of marine life, with a snorkelling mask on. There are also sightings of whale sharks and blacktip reef sharks in this area. It is not necessary to scuba dive – snorkelling is enough to see them clearly.

Nick Khoo: Protect ourselves and the marine life – snorkelers should undergo training

Many people know training is required to become an open water diver, but very few people know about “Snorkelling Courses”. Sponsored by Scuba Schools International (SSI), all the participants of the “Shark Awareness Programme” underwent a snorkelling course, with the guidance of the instructors from Siputscuba.

SSI Service Manager Nick Khoo pointed out that to be a responsible snorkeler, one should take up a snorkelling course that enables one to use snorkelling gear correctly. This allows them to, not only safeguard themselves, but also prevent them from harming the marine ecosystem and marine life during snorkelling.

From his observations, the common mistake made by many untrained snorkelers is to stand on corals.

Treading water can easily damage corals

“Secondly, snorkelers don’t know the correct way of using snorkelling fins. Many don’t realise they could accidentally damaged the corals while moving their large snorkelling fins too near to the corals.”

He pointed out that even a good swimmer may not necessarily know the right techniques of snorkelling because they are used to treading water, and often accidentally kick the corals in shallow water. The correct way of snorkelling is to always keep our body floating horizontally on the surface of water at all times, regardless of whether we are moving or resting.

According to him, snorkelling courses are not popular in Malaysia, but many scuba diving schools are providing the course in other countries.

“The reason for this is that snorkelers have the misconception that snorkelling is swimming with a life-jacket and a snorkel, but they aren’t prepared for muscle cramp and are not equipped with the knowledge of clearing water from the mask and snorkel. And many are not informed that corals are not rocks and we are not supposed to stand on them.”

A certificate will be given once the course is completed

When asked why snorkelling fins are banned at some marine parks, Khoo replied that this measure was implemented because the authorities think snorkelers won’t step on the corals if they aren’t wearing fins, but no explanation is given to people as to why we shouldn’t stand on corals.

He added that snorkelling course fees are not expensive. Overseas, some scuba diving schools insist snorkelers must undergo snorkeling training. This also changes the mentality of local operators that educating snorkelers is important.

Similar to open water diving, an electronic certificate will be given to every participant once he/she has completed the snorkelling course.

INCORRECT SNORKELLING TECHNIQUES HARM CORALS
Wong Wee Liem: Guidance is necessary

Wong Wee Liem and Wong Siew Lyn, members of MNS Selangor Branch Marine Special Interest Group, are two of the organising committee members of the Shark Awareness Programme. Wee Liem explained that the snorkelling experience of most participants is merely travelling to an island by boat.

“They have never learned how to react should a dangerous situation arises whilst in the ocean. Most of them don’t know they should snorkel in groups and should never be too close to speedboats to avoid injured by the propellers.”

One of the participants, Chan Beng Beng (50), said when she first heard about the snorkelling course, what came to mind was: “Is there certification for snorkelling? What is there to learn in snorkelling? Isn’t it just about putting on a life-jacket, wear a mask and a snorkel and jump into the water?”

She remembers that was how she learned snorkelling in Redang Island and Kapas Island 10 years ago. After the snorkelling training this time, she has become a responsible snorkeler.

Due to the lack of proper training, Wee Liem said, “Many snorkelers tend to stand on corals when they are tired. As a result, their actions destroy the fragile corals unintentionally.”

He added that corals take a long time to grow. They grow at a rate of 9mm to 15 cm a year. When a snorkeler steps on a coral that take ages to grow, it will be instantly be crushed. “Once they are destroyed, the coral reefs will be infected easily and will eventually die.”

The Cost of Coral Damage is Large

Siew Lyn said that since islands are popular among travellers, many untrained snorkelers are getting into the ocean. Even the snorkelling guides and tour operators are untrained and don’t have a sense of responsibility to protect the marine ecosystem. This has led to coral destruction and the price to pay is enormous.

Both Wee Liem and Siew Lyn pointed out that such situations are happening on Langkawi and the Perhentian islands. There used to be corals not far from the beaches many years ago, but they have all suffered the same fate as many popular islands, as most of the corals near beaches are now dead.

The intention of the MNS Selangor Branch Marine Special Interest Group is to educate not only the snorkelers, but also the holiday resort operators, fishermen and snorkelling instructors in the long run because these are the people who deal with tourists day in day out. They are the key people to educate travellers on the correct techniques in snorkelling.

“We hope that everyone can equip themselves with the right snorkelling skills and knowledge before going out to the ocean. This does not require a lot of time to learn. Perhaps not more than 15 to 20 minutes.”

Snorkelling courses should be mandatory

Siew Lyn believes this recommendation should be supported by the government and it should be mandatory to teach every snorkeler the right techniques by the tour operators.

The MNS Selangor Branch Marine Special Interest Group has been carrying out a Marine Awareness Programme since 2003. They also provide proper snorkeling training to their members. “But how many people can we train? We feel that it is more important that the tour operators and any relevant parties are given the training. Hence, we conducted training to snorkelling instructors on Tioman Island in 2006 and 2007.”

The training was a success, she pointed out, but as part of an NGO, they are limited by their resources. “We need implementation and enforcement from the local authorities.”

While they try to push these ideas through, MNS Marine encourages avid snorkelers to take up snorkelling courses.

Wee Liem said that the problem lies in the lack of awareness. Tourists should have the initiative to enquire about snorkelling course from friends who have the knowhow, or take part in activities organised by NGOs, or read up about it even though they don’t sign up for a course.

NON-SWIMMERS – THE FUN OF SNORKELLING
Take part in formal training

After taking part in the snorkelling course, non-swimmer father and son, Anba (50) and Shan (16) became among the most avid snorkelers in the group.

According to Anba, he has learned the right way of snorkelling, the proper use of snorkelling gear and safety measures through the course.

“Twenty years ago, I was given only a life-jacket and no one taught me how to control my buoyancy when I went snorkelling with friends.”

Fascinated by the marine life, it was the first time Shan snorkelled. He said he already knew how to protect the corals, for example, one should not step on the corals, throw plastic bottles or any rubbish into the sea and pollute the ocean.

“The underwater world is amazing. Through attending the Specialty Shark Course, I learned about the beauty of sharks. I still have a lot of things to learn.”

CONCERN ABOUT SEWAGE TREATMENT
High level of environmental awareness among the participants

All 24 participants have a high level of environmental awareness. They were very concerned how sewage and rubbish was treated when they arrived at the island. When they went for a night walk on the beach, they were very careful not to step on any coral. And they also did a beach clean-up a day before they left the island.

A retiree at 75 years old, Richard Gascoigne, is the oldest participant. He has snorkelled for many years, but this was the first time he learned about reef-safe sunblock.

“Before this, I didn’t know of the existence of reef-safe sunblock. It doesn’t contain chemicals that harm the corals, and is made of organic materials. I purposely brought this sunblock on this trip.”

Wong Siew Lyn encouraged everyone to be responsible travellers. Before making a reservation. they should find out how sewage and waste water are treated, whether they are dumped into the ocean, if solar energy is used and what energy saving measures are taken at a resort.

“We should put in the effort to ask more questions. When more tourists are asking these questions, pressure will be put on the holiday resorts to make improvements.”

SNORKELING CODE OF CONDUCT
– Do not touch the corals, take only photographs or videos.
– Maintain positive buoyancy to keep the body afloat.
– Remember the rules of snorkelling, i.e. snorkel with a buddy, look out for each other, breathe slowly and deeply, protect yourselves and avoid stepping on a coral.

Photo captions:
1. With the ocean and sky as backdrop, third from the right, Wong Wee Liem, Nick Khoo and Wong Siew Lyn, who led the organising committee, jump with joy. From left, Siputscuba dive instructor, Nickie Lee, MNS volunteers Jessica Ng and Adeline Loh, Siputscuba dive instructor Wong Si Peng, Siputscuba manager Tan Lea Meng. From right, manager dive instructor Kelvin Chu and International Diving Development Manager Low Ee Hsien. (Photo: Sin Chew)
2. Tenggol Island is a rocky island about 50 hectares in size. Thirty percent of it is covered by corals. It has clear water and an abundance of marine life. It is a heaven for snorkelling and diving. (photo: Sin Chew)
3. International Diving Development Manager Low Ee Hsien (first on the left) teaching participants the proper use of snorkelling gear. (photo: Sin Chew)
4. Participants walking on the beach carefully to avoid stepping on any coral during the night walk to look for marine animals. (photo: Sin Chew)
6. Richard led the group in singing a song called “Terima Kasih To You” at the end of the courses.
7. Participants obtain an electronic certificate issued by Scuba Schools International (SSI) once they complete the Snorkeling Course.
8. The non-swimmer father and son, Anba (on the right) and Shan became avid snorkelers after the Snorkeling Course.
9. Children participating in the beach clean-up, collecting all sort of rubbish on the beach.
10. The correct way of snorkelling is to maintain positive buoyant that allows our body to be afloat.

Photos: Wong Siew Lyn, Adeline Loh, Jessica Ng, Steven Wong, Ivy Loh, C. Anba and Tan Whei Li

Part 2: What are your preconceptions about sharks? Do sharks eat humans? Are they majestic yet gruesome creatures? In Part 2, the service manager of SSI, Nick Khoo, unravels the myths and mysteries of sharks, the top predator in the ocean. Click here for Part 2 of this report.

 

 

 

Sharks in hot soup!

By Suzanna Pillay

FROM 2000 to 2011, Malaysians consumed an annual average of 1,384 metric tonnes (mt) of shark fin and imported 1,173mt.

According to the State of the Global Market for Shark Products Report 2015 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Malaysia is the world’s ninth largest producer of shark products and third largest importer in terms of volume It is estimated that at least 1.4 million tonnes or 100 million sharks are killed per year, mainly for their fins.
Globally, sharks are facing extinction because of the demand for their fins and other threats, such as by-catch and usage for cosmetics and health supplements. No data is available on the number of sharks killed through finning in Malaysia.
“Shark fins are the most valuable part of the shark, hence, sharks are targeted for their fins. “If the trade in sharks continues, the supply of fins will be exhausted. The decline of sharks will cut short the supply of seafood and affect human survival,” says WWF-Malaysia’s marine programme sustainable seafood manager Chitra Devi G.
“Shark conservation is a long-term initiative. We need to work with partners for a period of time before we can reverse the situation and see significant results.
“Shark finning has increased over the past decade due to the increasing demand for shark fin soup, which is worrying.
“The Fisheries Department says shark finning, which involves hacking off fins and throwing sharks back in the ocean to die, is prohibited.”
Chitra Devi says the fins of sharks caught in Malaysian waters were typically removed at the landing site. The rest of the shark is also sold by the fishermen.
“Since most of the shark species that are targeted for their fins are slow to mature and reproduce infrequently, it makes it very difficult for shark populations to recover after extreme depletions.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) says shark fishing and finning should be banned.
“It is a matter of great urgency because sharks in and around Malaysia are fast losing their battle for survival,” says SAM president S.M. Mohd Idris.
“Killing tens of millions of sharks every year means that shark populations will take a long time to recover.
“Whether caught as by-catch or as targeted species, few controls are in place to limit the harvest of sharks in Sabah and Sarawak waters and it is unclear whether the levels of extraction are sustainable for all or certain shark species.
“Protection is key to the survival of our finned friends. No change will happen without the establishment of a protection law.
“Raising awareness of the inhumane act of shark finning should also be extended to fishermen who need to be taught the importance of shark conservation and protection of the ecological system where sharks are the apex predators,” he says.
Chitra Devi says WWF Malaysia believes that public education was key to reversing the high shark-fin consumption in Malaysia.
This month, a WWF-Malaysia Asian City Shark Fin Consumer Survey 2015 revealed that consumption of shark fin soup is strongly tied to celebrations, with weddings topping the list at 85 per cent. Another key finding is that consumers are mostly Chinese — 76 per cent in Kuala Lumpur or 91 per cent in Petaling Jaya. On average, shark fin soup was consumed twice last year, mainly in restaurants.
“We believe people consume shark fin soup because it is a status symbol and the belief that it signifies the wealth and prosperity of the host. “But it is encouraging that 57 per cent of respondents say it is acceptable to replace shark fin soup with alternatives at weddings,” says Chitra Devi. “We urge Malaysians to voice their opposition to shark fin soup consumption. WWF-Malaysia is organising the My Fin My Life campaign from January to July with campaign partners Shark Savers Malaysia (SSM), Scuba Schools International (SSI), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Selangor Branch Marine Group, Reef Check and Sabah Shark Protection Agency.
“This campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of sharks in maintaining balance in the marine ecosystem and keeping our seafood sustainable.
“The goal is to sensitise 20,000 restaurants to phase out shark fin soup, engage a million Malaysians to support the call for ‘no shark fin soup’ and to get 500 businesses to commit to removing shark-fin soup from their menus or when dining.
“The public can support the call for ‘no shark-fin soup’ by breaking the shark fin soup bowl at myfinmylife.com.
“In Malaysia, shark fins are gradually introduced to new market segments and not limited to the Chinese population.
“Therefore, WWF-Malaysia is educating all Malaysians that cutting short sharks’ existence will cut short our own supply of seafood and food security.
“The decline of sharks will also affect human survival in the long run, because seafood is one of our main sources of protein.”
MNS president Henry Goh says the pressure on shark numbers and fisheries, in general, is greater than ever and the ‘My Fin My Life’ campaign is to address the decline of shark populations in Malaysia.
Coordinator of MNS’ Selangor Branch Marine Special Interest Group Wong Wee Liem says shark education has been part of the branch’s annual marine awareness programme since 2003.
MNS Marine has been featuring articles on sharks in its monthly and quarterly publications, and on social media. It is also organising a shark awareness programme on Pulau Tenggol, Terengganu, in conjunction with World Oceans Day this June with SSI.
MNS marine also supports the My Fin My Life campaign’s aim of collecting a million pledges to abstain from eating shark fin soup. Wong says shark and shark fin consumption is a Malaysian problem. “Chinese Muslim restaurants serve shark’s fin. Indian cuisine also includes shark, so the focus is on understanding, so that everyone can play their part, be it bigger players like restaurants, companies and hotels, or individuals.”
SSM president Abner Yap says the results of the WWF Consumer Survey are encouraging as they show a 44 per cent decline in shark fin consumption in the past six months, and 56 per cent expect to lower their consumption in the coming 12 months.
“The decrease is driven by shark protection gaining more public concern (85 per cent), environmental concerns (65 per cent) and a change in dining culture (55 per cent).
“It is a validation of efforts by NGOs to raise awareness in this area. It shows that the campaign is effective and spurs us to achieve more.”

Source: New Straits Times 17 April 2016

Please, don’t touch: Snorkelers harm corals bore than they think, awareness can help

By Caitlin Fikes

Floating along over a colourful, vibrant coral reef is a quintessential holiday experience that many tourists enjoy when they travel to tropical locales. Alarmingly, recent research indicates that recreational snorkelers tend to underestimate just how much they can accidentally damage the coral during these outings—but the study also found that educating snorkelers on better reef etiquette pre-excursion can go a long way towards creating more respectful undersea visitors.

Despite being one of the most beloved underwater habitats, coral reefs are also one of the most highly threatened. From sea level rise to ocean acidification, overfishing to pollution, human activity is making life very difficult for coral reefs across the globe and images of entire reefs bleached bone-white are becoming soberingly common.

Adding to this list is the direct physical harm that reefs may experience from poorly dropped anchors, shallow boats, and well-meaning snorkelers and scuba divers. Recreational visitors to a reef can unintentionally damage the coral by kicking it with their fins, standing on it, or grabbing hold of it. This contact can break off fragments of coral that took several years to grow, or rub off the coral’s protective layer of tissue and allow an algal infection to set in.

The effects of a few careless fin-kicks may seem small compared to the major global threats, but when a popular reef is visited by hundreds of eager tourists every single day, it’s easy to see how many minor incidents can add up to one big problem—and quite literally chip away the reef!

Yet considering snorkeling is such a popular pastime, there has been surprisingly little research on the impact tourists may have on the health of a coral reef. Researchers Dr. Thomas Webler and Karin Jakubowski from the Social and Environmental Research Institute recently decided to take a closer look. Over the course of two years they closely monitored the behaviour of hundreds of tourists snorkeling in the most popular reefs off of Puerto Rico under the guise of a fish-counting survey. Post-excursion, the researchers asked willing participants to self-report on how often they believed they had made damaging contact with the reef.

Webler and Jakubowski observed that over one third of the recreational snorkelers damaged the reef in some way, typically through fin kicks or sitting, standing, or kneeling on the reef. They also found that these snorkelers greatly underestimated their own impact, making harmful contact with the reef seven times more often than they believed they had!

Unsurprisingly, beginner snorkelers were generally the worst culprits. Those with little experience maneuvering in the water had a tendency to forget the extra length provided by their fins and simply didn’t realise how often they kicked the coral. But Webler and Jakubowski also observed that beginners and experienced snorkelers alike were more likely to harm the reef while with their friends.

As the researchers noted, “Snorkelers tend to engage in more potentially damaging behaviors with the reef when in a group, because they pause to take their heads out of the water and discuss what they are seeing. During this time, they usually become vertical in the water and their fins are often contacting the coral, or they are standing on it.”

To address this issue, Webler and Jakubowski created a plan based on the most current research in social science and behaviour change. They compiled a five-minute video that aimed to not just raise awareness of the potential consequences of poor reef etiquette, but also to emphasise that every snorkeler can take personal responsibility for the future and be extra careful not to harm the coral.

Webler and Jakubowski showed the video to many recreational snorkeler groups pre-boarding the excursion vessel and also handed out written pledges for the tourists to sign confirming their commitment to practicing good reef etiquette and keeping a safe distance from the coral.

Would this well-meaning effort make a difference?  After all, anyone can sign a piece of paper, and there aren’t really policemen on the reef. When Webler and Jakubowski observed the behaviour of snorkeling groups that had watched the video and signed the pledge compared to the groups that hadn’t, they found that yes, raising awareness had made a significant difference.

Only 11% of the snorkelers in groups that had taken a few minutes to be educated before the trip made harmful contact with the reef—as opposed to 35% of snorkelers in the uneducated groups. When you consider that thousands of snorkelers visit a single reef over the course of the tourist season, such a reduction in harmful behaviors could make a big difference.

Although many marine parks or private tour boat operators do advise their guests to keep a safe distance from the reef, this is the first major study looking at whether those kinds of interventions are effective. As Webler and Jakubowski observed, however, snorkelers on a boat are usually fiddling with their gear during the safety briefings—which cannot be effective if no one is listening!

“Since these vessels are licensed, there is an opportunity to add a condition to the license that every tourist be required to watch a short video about tourism etiquette and sign a pledge before boarding the vessel,” the researchers suggest. “Given our results, such an action could significantly reduce tourism-induced damage to sensitive coral reefs and ecosystems.”

The image of a busy coral reef bursting with life and tropical fish darting to and fro is one of the most classic scenes that springs to mind when most of us envision the ocean environment. Tourists wishing to enjoy the beauty of coral reefs are usually not intending to do harm—after all, they wouldn’t be choosing to spend their holiday time and money in the water if they didn’t have some appreciation for the marine world.

Webler and Jakubowski reported in their study that most of the tourists they approached were eager and grateful to be educated on good reef etiquette. All of this goes to show that just a little bit more self-awareness by snorkelers about respectful and non-destructive behaviours, such as being careful about where you’re kicking your fins or not holding on to the coral while taking pictures, could go a long way towards giving already-stressed corals one less thing to worry about.

Source: Biosphere 15 April 2016

Sabah to declare three marine parks as shark sanctuaries

By Ruben Sario

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah is set to declare three of its marine parks as shark sanctuaries by mid-2016 in a bid to protect the endangered marine creatures, state Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said.

He said the Tun Sakaran marine park in Semporna district, Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park here and the proposed Tun Mustapha marine park in Kudat would be declared shark sanctuaries.

“These marine parks cover a total area of some 2mil hectares and is home to about 80% of our shark population,” said Masidi after launching the My Fin My Life campaign to reduce shark fin consumption and promote sustainable seafood here on Sunday.

He said the move to ban shark fishing at the marine parks would hopefully increase the shark population.

Masidi said his ministry’s officers were finalising documents to be tabled during the state Cabinet meeting for the three marine parks to be gazetted as shark sanctuaries.

He said the announcement would coincide with the declaration of the Tun Mustapha marine park in the middle of the year.

He said the state had no choice but to use state laws to protect Sabah’s shark population when a request to the Federal government to amend the Fisheries Act to protect marine creature was rejected.

“We only asked for shark hunting to be banned in Sabah, not in other states,” said Masidi, adding he was not afraid of being “politically incorrect” in the name of protecting the state’s natural heritage.

Last September Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that the Sabah government’s request for a ban on shark hunting and finning in the state was unnecessary.

He said sharks, unlike tuna, were accidentally caught by fishermen in Malaysian waters. This indicated that shark hunting and the finning industry did not exist in Malaysia.

Source: The Star 28 February 2016

Science Film Festival 2013

Date: 24 November 2013
Venue: MAP KL Solaris outdoor stage (Green Action Day)

The Goethe-Institut Malaysia in cooperation with the Malaysian Nature Society, the Malaysian-German Institute, SIEMENS, the Ministry of Education and MAP Publika is organising the Science Film Festival 2013: Energy and Sustainability in Kuala Lumpur from 21 November – 15 December.
 

The Malaysian film selection comprises 20 films from 13 Asian and European countries. This is the third year of Science Film Festival in Malaysia and the festival has grown considerably in Malaysia and in the whole ASEAN region with more than 350,000 viewers. During the festival period there will be screenings at the Nature Park in Kuala Selangor, MAP KL Solaris, at the German-Malaysian Institute and SIEMENS as well as at more than 450 schools nationwide.

Admin: There have been very little publicity surrounding this festival. We’ve not been able to find any information about the screening times at the MAP KL outdoor stage, so for more information please contact Goethe-Institute Malaysia’s Cultural Programme Coordinator David Ngui Tel: 03-2164 2011 or MAP KL Tel: 03-6207 9732.

We’ve picked two shorts (10 minutes) and one documentary which are related to water and marine. 

Title: Nineandahalf: A Sea of Plastic – Are Our Oceans Becoming a Dump?

Director: Juliane Kuhr
Produced by: tvision
Country: Germany
Year: 2012
Running Time: 10 min.
Age Group: All ages
 
There’s a lot of plastic swimming in our oceans. Part of it comes from ships, which dump their garbage into the ocean. But tourists also often throw their waste into the water. And there it remains for a very long time: a plastic bottle for example takes 450 years before it is decomposed. What effect does the garbage have on animals living in the sea? Why can’t we see the majority of the plastic waste? And why might even Johannes’ fish sandwich contain traces of plastic? All this and more is covered in this episode of “nineandahalf”.


Title: Earth to Future: Clean Water for All
Director: Kai Schmitt
Produced by: tvision for KiKA – The Children’s Channel by ARD and ZDF
Country: Germany
Year: 2012
Running Time: 10 min.

Age Group: All ages 

How can water shortage around the world be solved in the future? On a quest for answers, Felix visits the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Studies in Leipzig. Here, researchers are working on a project that seeks to improve water usage in Jordan, one of the driest countries in the world. With the help of algae wastewater processing plants, waste water is filtered and transformed into clean water. Also in the episode, Felix demonstrates the conscious and sparing use of water.

“Earth to Future” is a new programme by KiKA – The Children’s Channel by ARD and ZDF, the two largest public broadcasters in Germany, which explores technologies in each episode that will change our lives in the future. Felix, the presenter, looks for ideas that will improve our lives and lets the technologies of tomorrow be explained to him by scientists at the cutting edge.

Title: Mekong
Director: Douglas Varchol
Produced by: Douglas Varchol with support from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the CGIAR Challenge Programm for Water and Food (CPWF) and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA)
Country: Laos / Thailand / Cambodia / Vietnam
Year: 2013
Running Time: 52 min.
Age Group: Above 12

The Mekong Region is a massive ecosystem that is the lifeline for more than 60 million people across six countries: Cambodia, China, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. For the people in the Lower Mekong Basin, it provides more fish to more people than any other river in the world. With an estimated commercial value exceeding US$2 billion per year, it is the world’s most valuable inland fishery.

The question is how can these seemingly opposite demands be met – sustainable development of a region and the rising demands for energy and economic growth? At the same time, more than 140 dams are currently planned, under construction or commissioned for different rivers in the basin. If constructed, this will radically alter the basin’s hydrology, its ecology and, consequently, the lives of millions who depend upon it.

Talk: CITES – What does it do for wildlife protection?

Date: 26 February 2013
Time: 8 – 10 pm
Venue: Auditorium, Malaysian Nature Society HQ, JKR 641 Jalan Kelantan, Bukit Persekutuan, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Cost: Free and open to the public (no prior registration required)
Speaker: Dr. Ronald I. Orenstein

CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Today, CITES accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.

Between 3rd and 15th of March 2013, the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP16) to CITES will take place in Bangkok, Thailand.  There are proposals for increased protection for African elephants, polar bears, white rhinos, West African manatees, manta rays and sharks.

Canadian Dr. Ronald I. Orenstein will be attending the above conference and he is here to give us a general overview of CITES and the upcoming conference.

Dr. Orenstein is a zoologist, lawyer, wildlife conservationist, naturalist and birder who has written extensively on a wide variety of ecology and conservation issues.

For enquiries, please contact Lim Wai Kong at 012-393 5189 or e-mail him at drwklim(at)yahoo(dot)com if you need further details. This talk is organised by the MNS Bird Group (Selangor Branch).