Six dolphins found dead in last six days in Sukkur

Laboratory report found no traces of chemicals in water, cause of deaths remains unknown.

Sarfaraz Memon January 31, 2011

SUKKUR: As one more dolphin was found dead near Ali Wahan, the death of these freshwater mammals remains a mystery because according to the Rohri chemical laboratory’s report, no poisonous chemicals were found in the water.

Around 12 days ago, a large number of dead fish had washed up on the river banks in Soomar Panhwari and Khaderi areas of Pannu Aqil. Some of the residents had alleged that people had been using poisonous chemicals to kill the fish and secure a larger catch to sell in the markets.  Samples of the water were sent to the laboratory to find out what chemicals were used.

In the meanwhile, at least six more Indus blind dolphins have been found dead in the river between Guddu and Sukkur barrages and the Sindh wildlife department is blaming fishermen for these deaths. The department alleged that fishermen are using poisonous chemicals to kill fish, which is contaminating the river water while the fishermen said that the contamination is through no fault of theirs. While some of the fishermen had admitted they used chemicals to catch fish, they had said they used very little amounts, which only forces the fish to come to the surface. The effect of the chemical disappears within hours, they had added.

The laboratory report seems to confirm the fishermen’s claims. It found no traces of chemicals in the water and attributed the death of the fish to a high contamination and pollution level.

The trend in the last few years indicates that when the Sukkur Barrage is closed for its annual maintenance, more dead fish and turtles wash up on the river banks — the reason being that water levels are low and a small amount of poisonous chemicals can kill a large number of fish.

The laboratory results have not satisfied everyone. According to a wildlife department official, some fishermen have bribed the laboratory staff to change the findings.

Wildlife department estimates put the number of blind dolphins in River Indus, from Guddu to Sukkur barrage, at around 810. Six have been found dead in the past six days. Wildlife officials believe that the dolphins were killed between Taunsa Barrage (in Punjab) and Guddu Barrage and were later washed downstream towards Sukkur. Rohri Chemical Laboratory Incharge Dr Abdul Khaliq Jatoi told The Express Tribune that no traces of chemicals were found in the sample of water brought from Pannu Aqil. When asked why it took so long to finalise the report, he replied that his laboratory deals with cases from Sukkur, Larkana and Nawabshah, which is why they are overworked and results are often delayed. When asked about the alleged change in the report, he rebuffed all allegations and maintained they were baseless.

An elderly fisherman, Sikandar Mirbahar, said that earlier some of the fishermen used to kill blind dolphins for extracting oil, which is very expensive and is used for curing joints’ pain. “But we don’t kill them anymore,” he said, adding that even if a dolphin gets entangled in their fishing nets by accident, the fishermen hurry to free it.

However, fishermen are not all saints. Talking about the greediness of fishermen, Mirbahar said that they are using nets with very small holes, as a result of which very small fish (which is used as seed in the fish farms) are also caught and then sold to fish farmers for Rs30 to Rs50 per kilogram. When asked about the use of poisonous chemicals, he said that some men do use it to catch fish. They don’t realise the chemicals kill other marine life as well, he said. He said the fishermen need to understand their livelihood depends on  marine life and the balance of ecosystem. “We need to take good care of the fish,” he said, adding that nets with large holes should be used to that the small fish can be spared.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2011.


Crystal Leigh Harris | 10 years ago | Reply , “Human consumption of fish products is becoming an alarming situation and we need to take stock of what we are doing to world ocean fisheries” (Bradbury, M. 2011). I would impose that we outlaw seafood all together so the Oceans can replenish themselves, but of course that is not feasible. We need to develop uses for the bycatch that remains, in contrast to just throwing them injured back into the sea. An effective way to reduce losses from this source would be to avoid taking non-targeted species in the catch at sea. According to Food and agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (1996),”Many of the small pelagic species in developing countries could become sources for direct human consumption if suitable facilities and additional knowledge were available. Lack of control of oxidation and microbial contamination prevent the use of these species more widely as food or food ingredients. They are currently used largely as raw material for fishmeal and fish oil production”, (Science and technology for fisheries, Para. 1-4). The limitations of this plan are fishermen tend to fish where the money is and if we can place more of these species in our diets, then we create a demand for these marine organisms. This will in effect put more edible seafood in our stores at lower prices. Not only will we be using what we kill, yet effectively expanding the human diet and nutrients needed for healthy lives. Slight modifications in fishing gear can mean the difference between life and death for dolphins. Fishermen are willing to change their current work procedures if we offer them viable resources to help control the needless killing of so many marine organisms. We must reduce the amount of bycatch through technology; developing nets that will only entrap the specific targeted fish and will release other non-targeted fish; a devise that will allow them to break free. I read an article by James Owen where he states, (Owen, 2005) "A more cutting edge approach is to use nets infused with barium sulfate, which makes them stiffer [and thus less likely to tangle] and easier [for marine mammals] to detect acoustically [for example, with sonar]. This technology could possibly be "combined with materials that make the nets glow in the dark underwater, so the animals can see them," (Nets Kill Nearly 1,000 Marine Mammals a Day, Group Says, Para. page 2). Once we have implemented the new strategies of technology, the plan I want to go with is to open a sector of the United Nations called the Fish and Game wardens and make it law that two wardens are on board all fishing fleets to ensure proper fishing techniques at sea and on the docks. Hefty fines for fishermen not using the required nets for target fish, and fines for disposing of unwanted bycatch. This will deter unlawful fishing and cruel practices at sea. I want this sector opened by June of 2012. The appointed wardens will come from all sectors of science and military officials. They will be well versed in the field of fishery and will be armed on all ships. Any ship or fleet found at sea without a Fish and Game warden will be suspended and loss of fishing license will follow. This will be made an international law to in effect in over all the oceans and even in Africa where the data is missing in some parts
Riaz Pirzada | 10 years ago | Reply The use of poisonous chemicals, some men do use it to catch fish...oh my God!!!. They don’t realise the chemicals kill other marine life....
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