Published On: Fri, Dec 18th, 2015

Loggerhead turtle found in Pakistani waters first time: WWF-Pakistan

Staff Report

KARACHI:

A WWF-Pakistan trained fisherman Hasnat Khan caught, for the first time, a loggerhead turtle, a rare marine turtle hitherto unknown from Pakistani waters, in his net which was later safely released back into the sea, a press statement issued on Friday by WWF-Pakistan office started. The turtle became entangled in the net of the fisherman about 166 km southwest of Karachi.

The Loggerhead turtle weighted about 30 kg and was safely retrieved on board the fishing vessel Al-Saquib Farman. Sharing his views about turtle rescue operation, Hasnat Khan informed that when he noticed different markings on the turtle’s back, he thought that it was a different marine turtle species which has not been observed by them before in Pakistani waters. He also said that with the support of his crew men, he carefully removed the turtle from the net, measured its weight and length and then released it back into waters. Hasnat Khan is among the 40 skippers and fishermen that have been trained by WWF-Pakistan to release non-target species including marine turtles.

Four species of marine turtles are known to exist in Pakistan, which include the commonly occurring green turtle that nest on different sandy beaches along the coast of Pakistan including Sandspit, Hawksbay, Paradise Point, Taq (Ormara), Astola Island, Gwadar and Daran (Jiwani). Another species, the olive ridley turtle, used to nest on Pakistani beaches but no authentic record has been recorded for more than a decade. Studies undertaken by WWF-Pakistan have revealed the presence of a very large population of olive ridley turtles in offshore waters of Pakistan despite an absence of nests along the coast. A few live specimens of the leatherback and hawksbill turtles have been reported by WWF-Pakistan from the coast of Balochistan during the last three years.

According to Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Adviser (Marine Fisheries), WWF-Pakistan, the loggerhead turtle, scientifically known as Caretta caretta, has a cosmopolitan distribution, nesting over the broadest geographical range of any sea turtle. It inhabits the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. In the Indian Ocean, a large population exists in Oman, which hosts around 15,000 nests, giving it the second largest nesting population of loggerheads in the world. In 2010 it was reported that a loggerhead was caught in Pakistan waters but later investigations indicated that it was actually an olive ridley turtle. Coastal communities in Pakistan are now more aware of the importance of marine turtles and a number of conservation related projects are being implemented in this regard.

Through the efforts of WWF-Pakistan a major fisherman training programme was initiated for the safe release of megafauna which is very popular among fishermen. Since the start of this programme in March 2013, 17 whale sharks, three manta rays, two dolphins, one toothed whale, three sunfish and about 30,000 marine turtles have safely been released. Fishermen, like Hasnat Khan, are now vigilant and keen observers, able to identify the different turtle species and then safely release them back into the sea. According to WWF-Pakistan, the present record of the loggerhead turtle is a new addition to the biodiversity of Pakistan.

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