Whale shark caught, cut up & sold off

Friday, June 14th, 2013 4:00:02 by

KARACHI, June 13: A 5.4-metre-long whale shark reportedly caught, despite a ban on fishing, in the Sonmiani Bay area was brought to the Karachi harbour on Thursday.

The fish species’ trade is restricted under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) to which Pakistan is a signatory.

Over the past two years, at least eight whale sharks have been trapped in fishing nets and killed, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan (WWF-P).

Information gathered at the harbour showed that the fish, an adult, was caught with the help of a bottom-set gillnet near Phor village. It was brought here on a small boat — called ‘dhonda’ in local parlance — by a group of four fishermen headed by Saeed-us-Salam.

When the Dawn team arrived at the harbour, it found men busy loading the cut up fish onto a small van. A number of trucks carrying trash fish (juvenile and damaged fish) were also parked at the harbour, where fisheries business was continuing though its momentum had gone down on account of the June-July fishing ban.

“These trucks are heading for Ibrahim Hyderi, where the fish would be used to make poultry feed. Around 60 to 70 trucks are being loaded here daily during this time,” said a labourer.

Answering questions about the fish catch, the director for operations of the Karachi Fisheries Harbour Authority (KFHA), Anis Ahmed Soomro, said the boat captain had told him that the crew found the species dead on the Churna island and thought of earning some money by selling it to fish feed manufacturers.

Regarding the fishing activities during the ban period, KFHA managing director Abdul Ghani Jukhio admitted that fishing was going on, albeit on a small scale, and that small boats operated unlawfully without port clearance.

“The KFHA is not operating at sea. It’s the function of the numerous security agencies assigned with the responsibility of protecting the sea to stop fishing vessels during the fishing ban season,” he said, adding that the KFHA would cancel the fishing licence of the boat owner concerned.

The KFHA, he said, had written letters to the Maritime Security Agency and the customs authorities asking them not to let vessels go fishing. “It’s also the responsibility of the Fishermen Cooperative Society, managing fish auctions, and the Marine Fisheries Department that issues licences to factories operating at the harbour to get the fishing ban implemented in letter and spirit.”

In a statement, the WWF-P deplored the trapping of the whale shark and said that the species was considered a docile marine animal found in tropical and subtropical waters of the world.

“In Pakistan, whale shark meat is used for fish feed production whereas its liver oil is used for smearing hulls of fishing boats to make it smooth and resistant against fouling organisms,” said Mohammad Moazzam Khan, technical adviser on marine resources working with the WWF-P.

The wildlife acts of both Sindh and Balochistan, he said, were being amended and there was a need that the harmless giant marine species was included in their appendixes as a protected animal.

“In India, whale sharks are included among the protected species under wildlife regulations and have the same status as that of Bengal tigers or Indian rhinoceros. In Pakistan, whale sharks are not protected under any legislation,” he said.

Known to be a slow-moving plankton-eating shark, the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest living fish species and is highly docile. It has been listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is included in ‘Appendix 2’ of CITES.

This year, a juvenile whale shark was caught off the Churna island and brought to the harbour while another juvenile fish of the same species, which got entangled in a net in the Sonmiani Bay area, was released by Balochistan fishermen.

Last year, an 11-metre-long fish weighing 15 tonnes, stated to be the largest specimen of the whale shark recorded in Pakistan, was brought to the Karachi harbour. The fishermen claimed that they found the fish dead in the open sea, though some experts said the shark might have been killed after getting entangled in a net.

Karachi News Sources

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