Thousands dish out cash to see whale shark before it goes to Sri Lanka

Published: February 9, 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

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 The whale shark was placed on the floor of a makeshift marquee. Nearly 3,000 people turned up and paid 20 rupees to catch a glimpse of the famed fish, perhaps the largest Karachi has seen in recent times on Wednesday. The body has been put on show for three days by Haji Qasim, a fish dealer. PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS
KARACHI: 

Despite the stink that can only accompany a decomposing whale shark, nearly 3,000 people paid 20 rupees to catch a glimpse of the famed fish, perhaps the largest Karachi has seen in recent times.

The body has been put on show for three days by Haji Qasim, a fish dealer who bought it for a paltry Rs200,000, after it surfaced in Pakistani waters and was hauled in to the Karachi harbour a day earlier. As people pushed and shoved to make their way to see it, a man selling tickets said that he had managed to earn Rs50,000 by just 2pm. “I am sure that by this time tomorrow we will earn triple that amount,” he said. “The children are allowed to see the fish free but the adults have to pay.”

The whale shark was placed on the floor of a makeshift marquee but as there was no ice to preserve the body the miasma enveloped the entire area. The viewing disintegrated into a circus as men, women and children clambered on top of it in order to take a closer picture. Children prodded and poked it mercilessly.

According to some fishermen it is roughly 30 to 35 feet long but no official measurement could come by as no experts went to examine it. According to National Geographic, the whale shark is the largest fish in the sea and can grow up to 40 feet long.

When asked why the fish was still bleeding, its owner Qasim said that he believed it was still fresh. In fact, the response had been so overwhelming from the public that he plans to put it on show somewhere in Clifton. He could not say exactly where or if he has contacted the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation or the Cantonment Board Clifton. He felt that it would be good to display for another two days after which he would send it to Sri Lanka.

The KMC’s director general for parks, Liaquat Ali Khan, was one of the government officials who came to see the fish. He felt that it should have been preserved and properly displayed. He added that he would talk to the marine academy and ask if something could be done.

Ever since the fish was brought to Karachi, different versions of its appearance have been floating around. Earlier, it was believed that the whale shark became stuck in a net off Gadani but now the authorities claim that it was found 35 nautical miles from Karachi – close to the Pakistan-India sea limits.

The fishermen who were responsible for bringing it in, were missing from the scene for the second day as well. People at the harbour speculated that they had returned to sea but this could not be independently confirmed.

Muhammad Ashraf, a resident of Mohajir Camp, had come with his daughter and grandchildren to see the fish as he had heard that it was from one of the world’s largest species. “We decided to come see it the minute we saw it on television,” he said. “The children were really excited since they haven’t seen anything like this before.” But he was upset with the way the fish was displayed as the crowd around it was thick and they couldn’t get close enough for a look. “The people in the front were not moving,” he said. “They were just standing there and did not let anyone go near the fish. We had to push our way through to touch it.”

Meanwhile, on the sidelines, other fishermen grumbled. They stood outside the tent and griped that when they had caught a bigger fish five years ago no one had come to see it.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2012.

Reader Comments (22)

  • CK
    Feb 9, 2012 - 6:50AM

    Why would he send it to Sri Lanka?

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  • Thaha E.
    Feb 9, 2012 - 8:53AM

    hope this will ensure our relationship with Srilanka further.

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  • Cobra Commander
    Feb 9, 2012 - 10:02AM

    I think it was the wish of the fish that it’s final resting place should be Sri Lanka. :) I bet if it remains here our entrepreneurs will cut it in few days and sell the meat in open market .

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  • Beatle
    Feb 9, 2012 - 10:44AM

    @CK:
    ‘Coz this species of fish is a mammal, and some sects of Islam consider it Haraam. But its otherwise in SriLanka.

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  • yeah
    Feb 9, 2012 - 12:34PM

    @Has:
    better keep it there in pakistan, so that you can enjoy dead whale shark * directly.

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  • Amjad Hanif
    Feb 9, 2012 - 1:01PM

    I think this is belonging of Pakistan than why people send it to Sri Lanka?

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  • THE
    Feb 9, 2012 - 1:23PM

    Like a said before: Nothing more then a “tamasha” for the “awam”! How pathetic!

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  • Feb 9, 2012 - 1:24PM

    Man, they have gathered to see it or touch it in a tent! That sounds very pathetic, even more pathetic when saw one office children standing on this poor specie.

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  • king Julian
    Feb 9, 2012 - 1:25PM

    I think pakistan wants to send srilanka a msg!

    “sleep with the fishes”Recommend

  • sid
    Feb 9, 2012 - 1:26PM

    @beatle

    please atleast use google before writing amusing comments. its a FISH not a MAMMAL

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  • Abbas
    Feb 9, 2012 - 1:39PM

    Good to see the people finally getting quality entertainment :)

    Pak-SL ties Zindabad <3

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  • YNasim
    Feb 9, 2012 - 1:59PM

    @Beatle: please note that the term ‘whale shark’ is a misnomer of sorts. The species is so named since it is the largest ‘shark’ in the world, closer in size to a whale rather than a shark. However, it is NOT a whale (which is a mammalian species) but quite definitively a shark (which is a fish). Further evidence – if any were necessary – is provided by the fact that pictures of the creature published online clearly show gills, which are an organ unique to fish. Whales, on the other hand, being mammalian, do not possess gills.

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  • Pakistani
    Feb 9, 2012 - 2:49PM

    why is being sent to srilanka?

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  • OS
    Feb 9, 2012 - 2:57PM

    What on earth is a ‘whale shark’?Recommend

  • Feb 9, 2012 - 4:00PM

    What an Entertainment lol :D, we people need entertainment please

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  • Nine-Zero Karachi
    Feb 9, 2012 - 5:33PM

    Presenting a rotten fish to a friend is sure way to ruin a relationship !

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  • Feb 9, 2012 - 5:33PM

    Send it to Washington DC ……

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  • Feb 9, 2012 - 6:19PM

    Big show

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  • Feb 10, 2012 - 12:28AM

    Thats Pakistani journalising the actual facts missing? Why to Sri Lanka?

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  • Feb 10, 2012 - 3:05PM

    Well Well Well. We need to learn helping the stranded species or preserving if we are unable to help them survive for a better use then letting it decomposed and put on display in a very pathetic manner

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  • Feb 13, 2012 - 6:48AM

    Send it to some maritime biologists to figure out why it died and how they can save this endangered species.

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  • Mar 20, 2012 - 2:11AM

    I only hope that we do not keep hearing about dead whale sharks, and people paying to see them, let alone have them as food. If more isn’t done to protect whale sharks from fishermen and fin poachers, they can definitely end up on the world’s growing list of extinct creatures.

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