All is ‘whale’: ‘Moby Dick’ comes to town ahead of Karachi Literature Festival

Published: February 8, 2012

Curious onlookers crowd around the carcass of a whale shark at a fish harbour in Karachi on Tuesday. The 35-foot whale, weighing about six to seven tons, was found dead in the Arabian Sea at Gadani. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

KARACHI: 

A 35-foot long whale-shark dragged into the Karachi harbour will go on display for three days at the auction hall where its owner will charge viewers.

Fishermen dragged it to Karachi harbour in the morning, triggering chaos for the authorities as they battled to control hundreds of onlookers while they decided what to do with the whale-shark.

The Karachi Fish Harbour Authority (KFHA) took more than four hours to lift the seven-ton whale, which was found in shallow waters off the Gadani coast in Balochistan, fishermen said.

“It was dead when my men found it,” said Muhammad Yousuf, who owns the fibre boat that was used to tow the body to Karachi. “We will try to auction it. Let’s see what it fetches us.”

Part of the whale-shark’s fin was cut off and it was bleeding from the gills when the two heavy duty cranes pulled it up from the water. At first, the authorities tried to take it out of the water using a smaller crane but its pulley wires broke. A 35-ton crane had to do the job.

Later in the evening, the carcass of the whale was sold for Rs200,000 but only after stirring a controversy.

“We all thought it was auctioned for Rs1.7 million. Now it has been confirmed that Qasim Niazi, a fisheries dealer, bought it for much less than that,” said Hafeezur Rehman, an official at the fisheries auction hall.

The whale will be put on display for the public and the buyer will charge the visitors, he said. For three days the whale will be kept at the harbour’s auction hall.

Fishermen, who had gathered at the dockyards, spent the day speculating about the whale-shark. “It’s just a large Billi Mangra (catfish),” said one fisherman.

“No, no it’s an Andhi Mangra (blind dolphin),” said another.

The Bengali fishermen were quick to take the credit. “We want everyone to know that only the Bengalis could catch such a large fish,” said a man named Ahmed. “The men who had actually caught it were also Bengalis.”

But the fishermen who found the whale-shark were conspicuous by their absence. Others made up for a lack of fact by telling each other fictions, that a short four-foot tall Bengali fisherman had jumped onto the whale with a knife and killed it. Others said that diesel was poured on to its gills to suffocate it. An elderly fisherman with missing teeth boasted that whale-sharks had tried to swallow him twice and it couldn’t be killed.

So many men were spitting paan into the mud-filled water that it was hard to tell if the red was from the body or them. As soon as the whale-shark was placed on the harbour, more than 40 men and children climbed on to it, jumping up and down, clapping and laughing.

Macchi ki khushi may panch ruppay ki mithai,” shouted M Mohsin, who said he had earned Rs500 selling sweets in half an hour, an amount that normally took him a day to earn.

KFHA Deputy Director Syed Intiqaab Hussain said there used to be natural museum where skeletons of sea animals were kept. But it was closed a couple of years back.

Another KFHA official, Shameer Khan, said that a whale-shark of this size could easily fetch Rs1.5 million on the international market. “The Chinese use the fins to make soup. The liver is also very expensive as the oil from it is used to make special medicines,” he said. The oil is mostly used to lubricate the bottom of the boats.

National Institute of Oceanography’s biologist Dr Hina Baig said that the whale-shark must have lost its way and become stuck in the shallow waters. “Whales use eco-sounds to find their way in water and if a large ship comes in the way, they get disoriented.”

Whales live in deep waters and rarely visit Pakistan’s relatively shallower coast, she said. “But the period between November and January is crucial since they come here to find food and get stuck.”

The Red tide is often the cause of the death of the whale-shark, she said. “But it is very hard to say what killed this whale.”

Marine biologist at the WWF Moazam Khan said that around 30 whale-sharks have been found dead in Pakistani waters in the past seven years. “No one kills them intentionally now.” He said that the whale shark is an endangered species and should not be killed in any case.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly mentioned that the whale-shark is a mammal and also ran an incorrect definition of Red Tide. The corrections have been made.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2012.

Reader Comments (43)

  • Ken
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:17AM

    Sharks aren’t mammals.

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  • Phil M.
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:18AM

    Its a fish, not a whale. Its related to sharks, hence whale shark, and is the largest fish in the qorl. Please correct your article, thanks.

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  • scott
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:24AM

    finish your homework next time, this specimen is not a whale, nor mammel. Rhincodon typus is a filter feeding shark.

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  • Steve
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:24AM

    GENTLE GIANT! NO RESPECT FOR LIFE!

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  • Florent
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:42AM

    1- A whale shark is not a mammal.
    2- It isn’t a whale. It’s a species of fish. A large shark.

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  • Haibat
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:44AM

    Also whale sharks are sharks and not whales.

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  • Ron
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:47AM

    Um, just because it has the word “whale” in its name does not make it one. It is a shark, which is a fish, not a mammal. One clue should be that whales do not have gills.

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  • Joe Charlier
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:47AM

    A Whale Shark is a type of Shark. Sharks are most certainly NOT Mammals. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_shark

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  • Joe Taxonomy
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:48AM

    Not a “mammal”, Whale sharks are in the class Chondrichthyes.

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  • David Sada
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:56AM

    A whale shark is not a mammal, note gills on the side.

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  • Billy B. Tso
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:56AM

    very primitive.

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  • Amy
    Feb 8, 2012 - 5:57AM

    A whale shark is not a mammal.

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  • Huh?
    Feb 8, 2012 - 6:01AM

    The whale shark is not a whale, nor a mammal, it is a FISH!!!

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  • Doug Putnam
    Feb 8, 2012 - 6:09AM

    Great story, but this is neither a whale nor a mammal. This is a fish.

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  • random reader
    Feb 8, 2012 - 6:19AM

    Fishermen dragged it to Karachi harbour in the morning, triggering chaos for the authorities as they battled to control hundreds of onlookers while they decided what to do with the mammal.

    Hasan saab,

    Sharks are not mammals! They’re fish.

    No shark fin soup please!

    Cheers

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  • Truth-teller
    Feb 8, 2012 - 6:21AM

    Barbarians!
    No regard for life human or otherwise. Ability to produce not a single product the world needs. Yet have the audacity to hope forcing primitive religion on the rest of the world.

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  • suresh
    Feb 8, 2012 - 6:32AM

    Whale Shark is a fish not a mammal. Why kill and then celebrate the killing of a gentle giant?

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  • what?
    Feb 8, 2012 - 6:32AM

    What? Mammal? Since when? They have gills, not lungs. They are a fish, not a whale.

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  • Akbar
    Feb 8, 2012 - 6:37AM

    National Institute of Oceanography’s biologist Dr Hina Baig said that the whale-shark must have lost its way and become stuck in the shallow waters. “Whales use eco-sounds to find their way in water and if a large ship comes in the way, they get disoriented.”

    Oh for heaven’s sake. I would have hoped that a biologist from the National Institute of Oceanography would know better. Sharks are not mammals, They do not echo-locate like whales. A high-school student would know better …..Recommend

  • anonymous
    Feb 8, 2012 - 7:07AM

    last thing we need is a mammal coming on our shores and we put it on auctions!! fantastic!

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  • narayana murthy
    Feb 8, 2012 - 7:51AM

    Guess, Pakistanis can come up with conspiracy theories even in case of a dead fish.

    However the stories is funny.

    The writer has made several mistakes calling the fish a whale and getting the opinion of a doctor regarding a whale while the dead creature is a fish.

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  • Mary
    Feb 8, 2012 - 7:53AM

    I doubt this shark was dead for 10 days before they hauled it in or even two days. Why would anyone buy a fish dead that long? Rancid meat anyone? Or is rotting fish some sort of delicacy to them? A full day after death without refrigeration, decomposition has begun in earnest. After 10 days it would have been nearly gone from scavengers in the sea. This animal shows no sign of decomposition or bloat. After 10 days it would be clearly evident. Sounds like a cover for taking a threatened species to me.

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  • Disco
    Feb 8, 2012 - 8:23AM

    So many men were spitting paan into the mud-filled water that it was hard to tell if the red was from the body or them

    Brilliant, was quite entertaining reading this article.

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  • IZ
    Feb 8, 2012 - 8:47AM

    Just to repeat what everyone else is already saying, a whale-shark is a type of shark, not a type of whale. This means it is not a mammal but a fish. Please do issue a correction.

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  • tt
    Feb 8, 2012 - 9:02AM

    mammal?? pls someone check it

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  • rajesh
    Feb 8, 2012 - 9:07AM

    This is so sad. the Whale Shark is an endangered species found in the Arabian sea…how could the govt. allow this display and auction? This will only encourage more such ‘we found it dead’ attempts and make a bad situation, worse.

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  • Zaid Baloch
    Feb 8, 2012 - 9:40AM

    Okay its a fish alright and is fOund Dead at Gaddani. Thats it. Move forward.

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  • Chaman
    Feb 8, 2012 - 10:30AM

    A postmortem should be carried out to find the cause of death and if it is found that it was killed, then the responsible fishermen be punished if this species is indeed classified as endangered.

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  • s shah
    Feb 8, 2012 - 10:46AM

    This is barbaric. What is there to celebrate in the death of any creature. It would be a real pity if, as seems likely, an endangered species was killed.

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  • TT
    Feb 8, 2012 - 10:56AM

    hahahahah

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  • AK47
    Feb 8, 2012 - 11:19AM

    Is the meat of whale shark Halal?

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  • Syed Junaid Hassan.
    Feb 8, 2012 - 12:53PM

    This Fish is a Wale find the cause of Death our sea is very dirty.

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  • Badr
    Feb 8, 2012 - 1:26PM

    This is the funniest set of comments ever on ET!

    Even the article is quite hilarious, seems like it was quite a party in Karachi fisheries.

    Blockquote

    Blockquote> So many men were spitting paan into the mud-filled water that it was hard to tell if the red was from the body or them. As soon as the whale-shark was placed on the harbour, more than 40 men and children climbed on to it, jumping up and down, clapping and laughing.
    “Macchi ki khushi may panch ruppay ki mithai,” shouted M Mohsin, who said he had earned Rs500 selling sweets in half an hour, an amount that normally took him a day to earn.BlockquoteBlockquote

    Blockquote

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  • THE
    Feb 8, 2012 - 2:06PM

    The bottom line is that people always love a “tamasha”, and this is nothing more then that!

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  • Asim
    Feb 8, 2012 - 2:38PM

    So are we going to export it to China :D

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  • Shayan
    Feb 8, 2012 - 4:19PM

    Elementary my friends. The shark / whale whatever was killed by the toxic pan in the water. Case closed.

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  • Syed Hasan Atizaz
    Feb 8, 2012 - 6:44PM

    i love the way the report is written, very good.

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  • J Arc
    Feb 8, 2012 - 7:07PM

    There is something “OFF” about this story. I believe this animal was ALIVE when they snagged it. Whale Sharks don’t float around “unconscious”, and the LACK of information about this species by the people of Karachi ( who live by the sea), is ASTOUNDING. The “marine biologist” from Karachi is almost as ignorant as they are. Blind Dolphins….Catfish….wow, just wow. Every part of this story is BIZARRE and has changed many times. From the size of the animal, to the weight, to the amount of days it was “dead” or “unconscious”, to the amount of money it was sold for. First it was said 2 million, which was about $17,000 US, and that the owner planned on selling tickets to see it. Now they’re saying he paid 200,000, or around $250.00 US. Add in the reports that the animal had fuel poured into it’s gills, among other things….and this whole story just doesn’t add up. It’s so sad to see so many people so ignorant in this day and age.

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  • Talha Merchant
    Feb 8, 2012 - 8:59PM

    @Truth-teller:

    Pakistan has excellent agricultural products that are exported all over the world. It is also a leading manufacturer of sporting goods and surgical equipment. Please check your facts before making such baseless comments.

    Also, no one is forcing religion on anyone. I agree there is a small minority of religious fanatics but that in no way represents the general sentiment of the rest of the population. I would advise you to refrain from making such sweeping generalizations. There is more to Pakistan than our religion. We have a vibrant culture, great food and jaw-dropping natural beauty. I just don’t understand why people don’t recognize and appreciate that. Give Pakistan a chance.

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  • smj
    Feb 8, 2012 - 9:33PM

    Pakistan is now a fish oil producing country. yay!

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  • john
    Feb 9, 2012 - 2:32AM

    finally there is something for pakistan to export to china….

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  • Feb 9, 2012 - 11:28AM

    Whatever it is, sent by OBL from the Ocean, animal should be testified.

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  • Suzy
    Feb 12, 2012 - 12:30AM

    A highly endangered species the Whale Shark is undoubtedly a fish that roams the oceans with absolute splendour. A gentle giant indeed, the complete lack of respect for this beautiful creature is utterly distasteful. If, in fact, it was found ‘dead’, that should make it highly inedible and should not give reason to cut off its fins. This should be cause for speculation by environmentalists and conservationists alike, who should be seeking to protect this species – especially under the environmental laws of today. Clearly there was no government check on the workings of these fishermen to bring such a large endangered specimen onto shore and make a skeptical out of it. This would only give reason for other fishermen to scout for more for themselves (seeing the large sum of money it attracts – though the above mentioned sold value is no where near its actual worth). These Whales breed in warm Pakistani waters, and hunting them would be the worst possible stance these fishermen could take at this point in time. Judging by the size of this very fish, I believe it to be such a waste and loss of a life. Already we’ve left nothing of our eco-system in Pakistan – ravaging forests, callously polluting our atmosphere, driving many species of plants, animals and birds to the brink of extinction. This incident is a perfect depiction of our selfish existence.

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