A group of fishermen with a manta ray, or giant manta (Manta birostris) weighing more than 1,000kg that got caught in their fishing nets in the waters off Sungai Pagar, Labuan, at about 10.30am yesterday.
The creature was found by Awang Japrin, 35, and four of his friends. With a distinctive "horn" (from which the common name devil ray stems) on either side of its broad head, the manta is a prized sighting by divers.
I read this in the NST Online this morning and it made my blood boil. Firstly, I don't proclaim to be a conservationist and secondly, I'm a diver.
Yes, I eat my sharks fin occasionally because I know that in Asia, walk into the wet market and you'll find fish sellers hawking fresh shark cutlets to be cooked. In Australia, go into any local fish & chippery and you'll find flake offered. That's shark so eat it. Here, sharks aren't just killed solely for its fins. The meat is sold just like any other fish meat.
But what makes me mad is when a graceful beauty like this manta ray which isn't used for food or any other form of use is mercilessly left to die and hauled up on to shore like a prized trophy. Yes, I'm sure seeing a 1-tonne manta in anyone's fishing net is every fisherman's dream but before rejoicing and pulling it up to die without a thought, maybe a fleeting question they should have wondered is whether there was going to be any commercial use for it. I know that didn't cross their minds because all these fishermen thought was the fame this manta was going to bring them.
No thought of how many decades it must have taken for it to grow to that size, no thought of what joy it might have brought divers catching a glimpse of it in the shadows of the sea or any thought of how a magnificent and gentle creature like that should have at least the right to swim freely wherever it chooses.
Recently, I read another article about a giant sting-ray being hauled up too in East Malaysia and the fisherman posing next to it grinning in glee. It saddens me to see this. There must be drastic changes happening in our oceans if giants like these have started to come towards the surface. I makes me wonder if our future generations will see these denizens of the deep only in the pages of a glossy magazine.