Published On: Mon, Mar 28th, 2016

‘Pakistan is ranked as eighth highest exporter of shark fins’

Staff Reporter
WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with Ministry of Climate Change is organizing a three-day workshop titled ‘Developing conservation and management measures and assessing the vulnerability of sharks to address CITES issues; Endorsing the National Plan of Action (NPOA) for sharks of Pakistan’ from 28-30 March 2016 at a local Hotel, Karachi. During the first day of the workshop, speakers discussed about population status, threats and steps required for conservation of the species.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor, Marine Fisheries WWF-Pakistan pointed out that gillnet fisheries of Pakistan is known for high mortality of endangered and threatened species such as sharks. He informed that although sharks are not legally protected in Pakistan but now the fishing community considers them an important marine animal which should not be killed for mere extraction of liver oil. He informed that WWF-Pakistan is working in close collaboration with fisheries and wildlife departments of Sindh and Balochistan to include shark as a protected species. He stressed the need to devise National Plan of Action for conservation of sharks which are rapidly decreasing in Pakistan. He further pointed out that shark when gets entangled it usually damages the net which causes a big loss to the fishermen. Fishermen, therefore, used to kill these gentle giants in order to save their nets. However, because of efforts of WWF-Pakistan, which initiated a campaign for the awareness among fishermen, now sharks are seldom killed. He also gave a brief on status of sawfishes in Pakistan most of which are nearest extinction. He also lauded the efforts of media in highlighting and creating awareness about sharks among general public at large.

Dr. Andy Cornish, Global Shark Programme Leader WWF-Hong Kong shared that Pakistan is ranked as eighth highest exporter of shark fins and is considered to be an important shark fishing nation. He pointed out that WWF is initiating a project on sharks in three countries including Pakistan, Indonesia and India with the aim to generate information of shark fisheries and their management. He further said that global demand for shark meat is increasing specially new markets have emerged in south America which will have a serious impact on shark fishing in developing countries of the world. He stressed a need for developing national plan of action about sharks in all major fishing nations so as to ensure the shark resources are conserved.
Umair Shahid, Coordinator, WWF-Pakistan said that shark resources have declined substantially during the last few decades. Some of the shark species, during this period, have become critically endangered or have been exploited beyond their sustainable limits. He emphasized the need to develop comprehensive national plan of action for conservation and protection of sharks in Pakistan. He also shared that this majestic animal has immense ecological significance as it maintains the health of marine ecosystem and its optimal functioning.
Dr. M. Shoaib Kiani, Assistant Professor, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Karachi shared that there are a handful of locations in the world where whale sharks aggregations have been reported. He was of the view that the species has ecological, economic and aesthetic significance. It is commonly recorded from Pakistan specially around off Indus delta, Churna Island in west of Karachi, Ormara and Jiwani. He shared that practically most of what we know about whale sharks in Pakistan originates from accidental entanglements in fishing gears specifically gillnets. No dedicated research is carried out about this largest extant fish in Pakistan. He also shared that a recent project by Coastal Scientific Society along the Balochistan coast has generated important baseline information about whale sharks which will serve as a useful reference for future dedicated research. ‘A tangible way of initiating long term management and conservation is preparation of national action plan for sharks with relevant stakeholders and its ambitious implementation’, he added.
Waseem Khan, Director Marine Fisheries Department, Government of Pakistan said that fish production from marine sector is decreasing showing over exploitation of marine resources in general and sharks and rays in particular. He also said that current stock assessment surveys shows that fish stocks have remained one third that of observed in 1980s. He called for immediate management measures for conservation and re-building of these resources. He also suggested that in order to restore the fish stocks, the existing fishing fleets should be reduced by 50 per cent.
Umair Waqas, Coordinator, WWF-Pakistan discussing about shark fisheries of Balochistan said that they had conducted an assessment of sharks in Balochistan from 2008-2010 under a project titled ‘Assessment of Shark catch landing on Balochistan coast’ which confirmed landing of 30 different species of sharks.
Humaira Aysha, Manager Conservation, WWF-Pakistan; Abdul Rahim, formerly associated with WWF-Pakistan, Ghulam Qadir Shah, National Coordinator, Mangroves for Future, IUCN and others spoke on the occasion.

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