The big fish that was on show for twenty rupees for a day is leaving behind a trail of controversies and tears as the Karachi Fish Harbour Authority (KFHA), tried to preserve its decaying carcass.
The whale shark has stirred quite an interest among wildlife experts, some of whom are on their way to Karachi from the United Kingdom to carry out an autopsy and figure out the cause of death.
On Wednesday night, officials from the KFHA came in and removed the tents around the fish. They claim that the fish was actually government property and could not be put on display. They added that Haji Qasim, the man who had bought the whale shark for Rs200,000 would be compensated. On the other hand, the fisherman, who had towed the sea creature in, said that he wasn’t compensated properly.
According to the director general of the Marine Fisheries Department (MFD), Shaukat Hussain, the whale shark was a 40.1-foot long female and weighed 15 tonnes. He said that this was the second largest fish to be found in Pakistan. The director general added that a 41.5-foot long whale shark was found off Karachi’s coast in 1947.
Nip and tuck
Wearing a white lab coat, Hussain said that they had planned to cut the fish open on Friday (today).
He insisted that there was no need to wait for foreign experts despite the fact that Hussain or experts at the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) or Sindh Wild Life department have never done anything like this before. “I have asked experts from the PCSIR, National Institute of Oceanography, Sindh Wild Life department and academics from the University of Karachi’s marine biology department to collect samples.”
When asked if they had ever worked on a fish this big, Hussain said that they had worked on large fish so it should be different or difficult. The MFD could not determine if the whale shark was pregnant.
They claim that it died a natural death as they could not see any marks on the body. Dr Pirzada Jamal from the Pakistan Museum of Natural History is planning to come to Karachi to see if the fish could be preserved and flown to Islamabad for an exhibition.
The body of the whale shark is currently being preserved in ice in a room at the deserted Natural History Museum.
After keeping a low profile, Muhammad Dilawar, the fisherman who had found the whale shark, has finally surfaced. He said that he was tired of giving interviews and not getting a reward. He added that it was unfair because he only got a couple of thousand rupees.
While talking to The Express Tribune about how he found the fish, he said that it happened five days ago. “It was stuck in the hook,” he said. “We had to pull it up. It took three hours.”
However, according to KFHA’s managing director, Abdul Jokio, the fish was found floating near Bhit Shah Island.
Although the fish was declared government property, Qasim said that he wanted his money back.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2012.