31 January 2009

Cruelty to whale sharks can impact tourism: Malaysian Minister

"Nature lovers and the global conservation community are fast becoming very influential lobbyists whose action could hurt the State's tourism industry in the long run if they decide a boycott of Sabah to protest against activities perceived to be cruel to whales and sharks," said State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun. He instructed an investigation into claims of shark and whale processing activities believed happening in Mabul island, off Semporna.

"We need to be sensitive to the global views to protect our tourism industry if we want to continue attracting more foreign visitors to Sabah, especially from the high-end markets.

"A small mistake or even inaction could have a major repercussion on the industry."

Since Mabul island is a popular tourist destination especially as a transit point for diving in Sipadan (island), the alleged whaling and shark processing activities would in a way affect the tourism industry in the State.

Ministry wants 'whale, shark processing in Mabul' probed
Daily Express 31 Jan 09;
Kota Kinabalu: State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun wants the Fisheries Department to investigate claims of shark and whale processing activities believed happening in Mabul island, off Semporna.

He also urged the District Officer of Semporna to look into the claims and take appropriate measures to safeguard the future of the tourism industry in the district. He has instructed his officers to convey the Ministry's stand and deep concern on these alleged controversial business activities in Mabul.

"Mabul is not under the jurisdiction of Sabah Parks (which is under Masidi's Ministry). However, since the island is a popular tourist destination especially as a transit point for diving in Sipadan (island), the alleged whaling and shark processing activities would in a way affect the tourism industry in the State.

"Nature lovers and the global conservation community are fast becoming very influential lobbyists whose action could hurt the State's tourism industry in the long run if they decide a boycott of Sabah to protest against activities perceived to be cruel to whales and sharks," he said.

Speaking at a gathering of Ministry staff, Friday, Masidi said:

"We need to be sensitive to the global views to protect our tourism industry if we want to continue attracting more foreign visitors to Sabah, especially from the high-end markets.

"A small mistake or even inaction could have a major repercussion on the industry."

On another note, he said there should be a coordination between the various government agencies in curbing illegal activities in the State's waters such as fish bombing, which was threatening the marine ecosystem through the destruction of coral reefs.

Meanwhile, the Minister reminded Ministry staff to improve their delivery system such as response time when dealing with customers.

"We are a service-oriented body É like a hotel that needs to constantly enhance its services in order to attract guests," he said.

Masidi also said that in the wake of the economic slowdown, the Ministry is embarking on cost-cutting measures, which includes car pooling for officers who are going for outstation assignments.

"Even though the officer may be entitled to use a government vehicle on such assignments, if there are four officers on the same assignment, for example, it makes sense to use one vehicle instead of going separately," he said.

Also present at the gathering were Assistant Ministers, Datuk Ellron Angin and Bolkiah Haji Ismail, Sabah Tourism Board Chairman Tengku Datuk Zainal Adlin, Sabah Cultural Board Chairman, Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau, Deputy Permanent Secretary, William Baya and other heads of departments.

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