Published On: Wed, Oct 28th, 2015

Fishermen rescue entangled bowmouth guitarfish in Balochistan


Staff Report

KARACHI

Some local fishermen of Balochistan, during their routine fishing, accidentally caught an endangered bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma), a rare fish species, on 26 October 2015 in the offshore waters of Balochistan that was later released back to sea by the fishermen. However, World Wildlife Fund for Nature–WWF-Pakistan in a press release issued on Wednesday, claimed that fishermen released the endangered fish back to sea because WWF trained them on these rare fish species.

the statement stated that Muhammad Iqrar Nakhuda (skipper) of Karachi based tuna gillnetter, noticed a 2.3 m long bowmouth guitarfish in their gillnet while operating in off Ras Zarrien near Pasni about 45 km in the offshore waters where the depth of the sea was about 30 m. They stopped their fishing operation and tried to release this animal back into the sea. After struggle of about 25 minutes they were able to haul this guitarfish on board and then released it successfully. Nakhuda Muhammad Iqrar was proud to inform that although he could have sold this fish in Pasni or Balochistan at about Rs 2,000 or more but considering significance of the species, he opted to release it safely back into waters.

WWF-Pakistan has trained about some fishermen since 2013 on release of rare and endangered species and since then they have released around two dozens of endangered fish spaces back to sea.

Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Biodiversity, WWF-Pakistan appreciated the efforts of the fishermen in releasing the rare guitarfish. He pointed out that although guitarfish are not legally protected in Pakistan the fishing community considers them an important marine animal which should not be killed for mere extraction of liver oil and its fins. He informed that WWF-Pakistan is working in close collaboration with fisheries and wildlife departments of Sindh and Balochistan to include guitarfish as a protected species. He stressed the Government to devise a policy for reducing gillnets fisheries in Pakistan which is known for high entanglement of bycatch especially cetaceans and turtles.

According to Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries) WWF-Pakistan, the bowmouth guitarfish is vulnerable species according to IUCN Red list and its population has been seriously reduced in the area of its distribution. Locally known as “bhuth-khair” in Sindhi and “koh-bayyadri” in Balochi, this species used to be regularly exploited but now because of overfishing and its slow reproduction rate, its population has seriously declined in Pakistan. This species can attain a maximum length of 3.0 m. It mainly feeds on bottom dwelling fishes and crustaceans. Its bands of flattened teeth allow it to crush hard-shelled prey. Bowmouth guitarfish is known from the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and East Africa to Papua New Guinea, north to Japan, south to New South Wales and Australia. The bowmouth guitarfish gives birth to four live young. Like other sharks and rays, this species is thought to have a late onset of sexual maturity and slow reproductive rate, which makes it extremely vulnerable.

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