Shark meat still being sold in Brunei despite ban

MUARA, Brunei - Fresh and grilled shark meat for as low as $3 a slice continues to be sold at the Jerudong market, as vendors openly defy the government's blanket ban on the shark trade.

When The Brunei Times visited the market on Monday afternoon, one vendor was seen selling at least five pieces of smoked shark meat on a stand also displaying other grilled fish and chicken.

Upon inquiring, the vendor, who declined to be named, said he was also selling a whole "baby" shark for $3, which he claimed was "accidentally caught" when fishing.

"When we cast the nets, we are not targeting sharks, but sometimes they are caught unintentionally," said the vendor.

He claimed fishermen and vendors are finding it "more difficult" to sell shark meat as a result of the ban, but said they continued to sell because they did not want to waste any of their catch, many of which are already dead when nets are pulled back onto the fishing boat.

The Acting Director of Fisheries Abdul Halidi Mohd Salleh said the department is investigating the situation, with his Enforcement Section having already met with several fishermen operating off the coast of Jerudong. He advised the public to stay away from shark meat, which contains high levels of mercury, for their health and to lower demand for shark products.

"Shark meat isn't part of the common diet of Bruneians to begin with, but what would further drive down demand is if the public completely stopped purchasing all shark-related products, which would make it unattractive to sell," he said.

To achieve this he said various education and awareness programmes, some of which are being implemented, were needed.

Brunei has a blanket ban on the catch, sale and import of all shark products which came into effect last year. The public is urged to report information on any activities relating to the illegal shark trade to the Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 7297771.

Under the Fisheries Order 2009, shark trade violators can be fined up to $1,000 by the Fisheries Department or face prosecution in court with a maximum penalty of $10,000 or sentenced to one year imprisonment, or both.