Manta rays
Representational image of manta rays and sting raysPixabay

Chinese and Western tourists were left horrified after witnessing the mass slaughter of two oceanic manta rays, 13 devil rays and a shark in a resort island of Malaysia on Sunday, February 18. The photos of the bloodbath went viral after the tourists posted them on social media. 

The tourists, who were mainly diving-enthusiasts, had paid RM 4,000 ($1028) to watch the marine animals in their natural habitat. Instead, they could not find any in the water. When they returned to the shore, they found them being slaughtered, reports Free Malaysia Today.

Sabah Sharks Protection Association president Aderick Chong said the sight of the mass killing was like a "horror show" for the tourists. Mabul Island in Semporna, Sabah, attracts a large number of international visitors for its water villages, diving hotspots, and marine diversity.

The tourists asked the guides why the animals were being slaughtered. According to the photo captions on social media, six fishermen were responsible for the deed. 

Chong says that the manta ray was to be gazetted as a protected species under the 2017 federal Fisheries Act of Sabah but there has been no official word on the ban yet. NGOs are also working to ensure the protection of sharks in that area.

"This latest killing is really sad, we need the law to be enforced if the ban was in place," said Chong. The IUCN Red List categorizes the manta ray as 'vulnerable.'

The Sabah Fisheries Department has recommended other marine creatures like the hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, winghead shark and oceanic wingtip shark for a hunting ban as well.

Datuk Seri Masidi, minister of state tourism, culture, and environment, has stated that marine animals need to be protected in their natural habitat as they are worth more in the ecosystem compared to their value as seafood.