Bycatch Rare Whale Shark Cut & Sold

June 14, 2013

By Amar Guriro

KARACHI: Local fishermen, after catching a 5.4 metre long whale shark along Makran Coast, cut it into pieces and sold it at Karachi Fish Harbour before the authorities could reach, officials of WWF-Pakistan told Daily Times.

Officials said the whale shark was caught off Karachi waters in a bottom set gillnet near Phor in the Sonmiani Bay. Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries) WWF-Pakistan Muhammad Moazzam Khan said fishermen illegally catch these animals and no authority has so far taken action against the violators.

According to experts, whale shark is a docile marine animal found in tropical and subtropical waters across the world. Its trade is restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Pakistan is a signatory to this international agreement and catching, killing and selling of this marine animal is legally prohibited here.

This was not the first time that local fishermen caught whale shark and sold it; in past two years at least eight whale sharks have been trapped in fishing nets and killed in Sindh and Balochistan, said the official record of WWF-Pakistan.

Usually fishermen in Sindh and Balochistan catch the animal illegally for meat, as its meat is used for fishmeal production. Moreover, its liver oil is used for smearing the hull of fishing boats to make it smooth and resistant against fouling organism.

Khan further said that in India, whale shark is considered as protected species under Wildlife regulations, having the same status as that for Bengal tiger or Indian Rhinoceros. Meanwhile, in Pakistan no legislation has been drafted to protect whale sharks.

He further pointed out that wildlife acts of both Sindh and Balochistan are being amended and there is a need that the whale sharks may be included in their Appendixes so that these harmless but giant animals get protection.

In pre-partition period organised fishing was carried out to catch whale sharks. Using harpoons on their sailboats fishermen used to hunt this fish along both Sindh and Balochistan coast. However, this practice died down in 1950’s, but woes to whale shark have not ended. Uncontrolled increase in fishing fleet, entanglement and ultimate death of whale shark in fishing operations is now seen on the rise.

Director WWF-Pakistan Rab Nawaz informed that an awareness programme has started to make fishermen aware of the importance of whale shark and its protection. As a result of this training, one fisherman was able to release 3.5 metre long whale shark entrapped in his net after a tiring effort of more than four fours near Ormara, he said.

Nawaz urged the authorities to support WWF-Pakistan’s programme on protection of whale sharks. Unabated killing of whale sharks, like this instance, is very sad because whale sharks are getting rarer in Pakistani waters. He further pointed out that if entanglement of whale sharks continues at this rate, it will be extinct from Pakistani waters by next decade. He stressed for role of media, fishermen groups and all conservation organisations to support WWF-Pakistan in its endeavour for protection of whale sharks and other threatened animals in Pakistan.

1 Whale shark is a docile marine animal found in tropical and subtropical waters across the world

2 Pakistan is a signatory to CITES of Wild Fauna and Flora that restricts trade catching, killing and selling of this marine animal

3 No legislation has been drafted to protect whale sharks in Pakistan

4 These sharks were collectively
hunted along Sindh and Balochistan coast with harpoons installed on sailboats during pre-partition era

5 If entanglement of whale sharks continues at this rate, it will be extinct from Pakistani waters by next decade

From:  http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20136\14\story_14-6-2013_pg12_4

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