Openly displayed on the table at the Central Fish Market at Kota Kinabalu.Killed, either out of ignorance or typical don't care attitude.You have to be a diver to appreciate this gentle giant in the wild.
I was shocked what befalls my eyes when I went to the fish market this morning.There right in front of me were parts of a baby whale shark for sale.The juvenile was probably just a few years old.When I asked the fish monger where she got the fish from she said she bought it from a fisherman.When I told her it is illegal to kill this type of fish she just gave me a blank look and shrugged her shoulder, meaning she doesn't know or doesn't care.Some of the other male fishmongers were already looking at me and my camera suspiciously.I have heard of costumers being whacked by this illegal ingrates if they complain of being short-changed.I quickly moved away and left the market.
Most fishmongers at the market are Filipino migrants and many live across the bay in the biggest eyesore of Kota Kinabalu, the water village of Pulau Gaya called Kampong Pondo, the hive of Filipino illegal activities.Fish bombs,smuggled booze and cigarettes, shabu and stolen goods from the mainland, all can be found here.
It's a terrible sight just to see this gentle giant being slaughtered.It has very little commercial value here.This specie is protected in many countries in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific where they are mainly concentrated.They are also protected in Sabah waters but little have been done to educate the fishing community not to kill the specie.
Whale shark is placed in Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).It is also on Appendix II of CMS (Convention on Migratory Species also known as the Bonn Convention).Listing on CITES require member nations to monitor the international trade in whale shark product and to ensure it does not threaten survival of the specie.
Our Fisheries Department has done nothing in term of monitoring and enforcement.The whole fishing industry here is topsy-turvy and mired in all kind of illegal activities.
Typical civil servants who sit on their arses and take no pride in their jobs.Fish bombing, using cyanide to catch live fish and preserving fish using formalin are rampant practices here, endangering the people's health and the health of the ocean.The live fish we savour at seafood restaurants around the city may have traces of cyanide, not enough to kill you but has bad long term effect on your health.
The use of sodium cyanide first started in the Philippines in the sixties with the aquarium trade but have somehow made its way into the live fish trade throughout South East Asia.
Unlike in the West, ours is not a compliance society.Malaysians have the tendency to break the law if they think they can get away with it.The most glaring example can be seen on our roads.
What we need is strict enforcement to drive the message home.In this case the Fisheries Department should station permanent enforcement unit in all fish markets in the major towns to nap the culprits who indulge in any illegal activities.
The next time you go to the fish market beware of those fresh looking fish where even the flies don't dare to go near, it could be laced with formalin (formaldehyde).