Counting Catsharks in Malaysia

Coral Catshark on Malaysian Reef Photo Courtesy Scubazoo

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Borneo has a shark problem. Over 100 species of sharks live in this region of the Coral Triangle, a region of highest marine biodiversity in the world. Not only do large sharks like hammerheads, tigers and bull sharks swim here, but also endemic species like the Borneo shark, and small bamboo and cat sharks.

Borneo has a shark problem, but it is not the kind you think.

Finned Baby Hammerhead Sharks Photo Courtesy David McGuire

“How much is this?” The scalloped hammerhead shark hangs lifeless from my friend’s hand. “10 Ringgit,“replies the fishmonger, around $3 US a kilo. From the looks of the size of the baby scalloped hammerhead shark she weighs less than 1 Kilo, and may have never been born. Fishmongers chatter around us, singing out their wares at the Kota Kinabalu market in Malaysian Borneo, rhythmically advertising their catch ranging from squid, squirrel fish, blue spotted rays, yellow tail tuna and many, many species in between. The diversity is a macabre mirror of the resplendent coral reef we have just been diving at the world famous Sipadan Island as part of a Sabah shark count.

The baby shark is among a group of finned sharks including bamboo sharks, what looks like a mutilated reef shark, and a large bin of coral catsharks. After searching for them in the wild, we came to investigate whether cat sharks and bamboo sharks were being caught and sold in the local markets. We found the catsharks with their fins are piled alongside the stacked shark corpses. “How much are the fins?” Bertie asks the vendor.

“75 Ringgit.” the man tells us, “100grams.” That is about 25 dollars wet weight for a tiny fin. A set of five could barely make a bowl of shark fin soup. Dried fins can sell —> Read More