February 23rd, 2009
KOTA KINABALU: Sipadan conjures up an image of a serene, protected underwater world — one of the world’s top dive spots. But just a half-hour boat ride away off Pulau Mabul, the blood of magnificent sharks, crudely finned and gutted by the boatload stains the sea red. Shark finning has been going on here for several years, and the stark contrast between Sipadan and Mabul has caused an uproar in the international diving community, with some threatening to boycott Sabah entirely.
This is very sad. I did some fantastic diving off of Sipadan Island (dive report; photos), and I remember there being more sharks than anywhere else I’d ever been (non-coincidentally, also home the most sea turtles). High shark population density is a very good thing, indicating a healthy marine ecosystem (they’re apex predators and only exist where there is a sufficient food base). I’m sick of the negative way that the press continues to portray areas of the ocean as “shark-infested waters”, such as in movies about divers lost at sea on the Great Barrier Reef. No, we should not harvest shark fins, but we also need to stop thinking about sharks as nasty animals that seek out and prey on humans. That goes for you too, Discovery Channel.
Entry Filed under: Travel