Karachi, May 3, 2014, From The News
Unusually high number of juvenile and sub-adult whale sharks have been observed in Pakistani waters during the past two weeks.
During this time, five whale sharks have been killed by entanglement in fishing nets along the country’s coast.
The latest incidence of enmeshment was reported from Gwader where a 6.8-metre-long juvenile whale shark was caught in the fishermen’s gillnet.
According to the WWF-Pakistan’s site coordinator for Gwadar, Abdul Rahim, the whale shark had been caught by fishermen at Cherkoh, West Bay.
The WWF’s technical adviser for marine fisheries in Pakistan, Muhammad Moazzam Khan, pointed out that with the latest incident in Gwadar, the total number of whale sharks killed by entanglement in fishing nets along the Pakistani coast had increased to five.
On April 21 this year, a 5.1-metre-long whale shark, had landed at the Karachi Fish Harbour after being caught and killed by fishermen.
Then on April 24, two whale sharks, 3.4 and 3.9 metres long respectively, landed at the Karachi Fish Harbour after which they were butchered and their meat was sold off to fish meal processors.
The fourth incident occurred on April 27, when a 4.7-metre-long female landed at the harbour but was immediately killed.
In addition to these, a live juvenile whale shark, about 2.9 metres long, was also photographed by fishermen on April 22 near the coast of Ormara in Balochistan.
The WWF-Pakistan director, Rab Nawaz, considered the sudden increase in whale shark sightings along the Pakistani coast as unusual and remarked that it may on account of changes in the climate pattern and its impact on marine life.
He said higher temperatures may result in increased production of planktons which were the main of whale sharks.
He said the WWF-Pakistan was now maintaining an inventory of the animals caught or seen from the waters of Sindh and Balochistan, urging the government to take appropriate measures for their protection.
However, sire coordinator Rahim said Pakistan’s coastline is known to be a breeding and feeding ground for whale sharks and this is why a large population of the species was found our waters.
He went on to reveal that Coastal Scientific Society Pakistan — a Gwadar based organisation for nature conservation — had initiated a project funded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) under its Mangroves for the Future (MFF) programme which aimed at assessing and conserving the whale shark population in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Moazzam Khan pointed out that there was ban on international trade of whale sharks or their fins under the Appendix-II of the CITES agreement (an international treaty drawn to protect exploitation of wildlife) to which Pakistan was a signatory.
He said the WWF-Pakistan was working closely with the Sindh and Balochistan governments’ wildlife departments and had suggested including whale shark in the “second schedules” of Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972 and Balochistan Wildlife Protection Act, 1974 so that these gentle giants may be protected under law.
The officials of WWF reiterated that since a large population of whale sharks existed in or beyond territorial waters of Pakistan, there was a need to legislate for their protection and also of whales, dolphins and turtles, also found in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Pakistan.