Some claimed they did not know that the species were protected. NSTP/POLIANA RONNIE SIDOM

SANDAKAN: Several protected shark species are being sold at the markets in the state, said Sabah Fisheries Department.

Its marine resource management assistant director Lawrence Kissol said there were 26 districts with at least 50 markets, or tamu (weekly market), in Sabah selling seafood either from the sea or farms.

“There have been a few cases involving the seizures of protected species.

“Actions were taken where their permits were terminated after being found guilty of selling them,” he said during an awareness programme at the Sandakan market, here.

Present was district Fisheries enforcement officer Norainon Madra.

Lawrence said during previous inspections at the markets, fishmongers claimed that the species were caught unintentionally.

Some claimed they did not know that the species were protected.

On July 17, four species of sharks and two species of rays were listed as endangered under the newly-amended Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

The newly-listed species under the shark group are Sphyrna mokarran (great hammerhead shark), Sphyrna zygaena (smooth hammerhead shark), Eusphyra blochii (winghead shark) and the Carcharhinus longimanus (oceanic whitetip shark).

The species under the ray group are Manta birostris (oceanic manta) and Manta alfredi (reef manta).

The new additions mean that there are now 36 endangered marine species listed as threatened under the Fisheries Act 1985.

Offences such as fishing, disturbing, killing, taking, possessing, selling, buying, exporting or transporting these species are liable to a fine of up to RM20,000 or jail of not more than two years, or both, if convicted.

“Among the efforts taken include meeting with the community through awareness programmes at 17 districts on the importance of the protection list and its purposes.”

He said the authority had advised the fishing community to release the protected species or small fish back into the sea to ensure their survival.