Who I am
I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and a city some distance from the ocean, yet ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated by marine life after watching wildlife documentaries. When I was 12 my passion for marine life burgeoned after my first visit to Underwater World Langkawi, an aquarium in Malaysia. For me, it was an eye-opener to see those amazing marine creatures. As my interest in the marine environment grew, I went on to pursue a BSc degree in aquatic resource science and management at the University of Malaysia Sarawak. After graduating, I began studying towards a Master’s degree in biology and the population structure of butterfly rays. An exciting opportunity to be involved in shark and ray research in Malaysia came my way thanks to my supervisor, who encouraged me to study shark and ray fisheries. The more I learnt about them, the stronger became the feeling that I want to protect these fascinating animals.
Where I work
I work along both coasts of the Malay Peninsula and in Malaysian Borneo, focusing on major fish landing sites and fishing villages. On a typical day of fieldwork, I go to busy and crowded landing sites to collect genetic samples and talk to local fishers to understand their perspectives on catching white-spotted wedgefish. I also work in a laboratory conducting genetic analyses. The Critically Endangered white-spotted wedgefish is caught for its highly prized fins and meat and is still sighted with reasonably high frequency at landing sites in Malaysia. Very limited fisheries and scientific research has been done on this threatened species in Malaysia, so fisheries management to protect it is lacking.
What I do
This project aims to protect this fascinating species and work towards creating a sustainable fishery that can support fishing communities into the future. I am focusing on determining the structure of the local population of the white-spotted wedgefish in Malaysia by means of DNA analysis to clarify its genetic structure and connectivity. At the same time, I want to pinpoint the threats to it from fishing, and to do this am taking a two-pronged approach of conducting fishery landing surveys and face-to-face interviews in priority sites to gather information about fishing gear used and catch profiles. These scientific data are not only important for taking conservation action, but also inform gear-specific management action to protect the white-spotted wedgefish well into the future.