KARACHI: In the wake of the deaths of six Indus blind dolphins last week, Sindh Minister for Wildlife Dr Dayaram Essarani said the use of poisonous chemical by fishermen was the likely cause. If fishermen do not stop using this “unconventional method” near Ali Wahan, the government would ban fishing in the area.
Addressing a joint press conference with Fisheries Minister Zahid Bhurgari on Tuesday, he said that after abolishing the contract system in fisheries, it has been easy for fishermen to get the licence (the Benazir Card) at Rs100. These untrained fishermen are using toxic chemicals to fish that are killing fresh water mammals, he said. “Six dolphins have been found dead since January 24. It was found that three died because of a poisonous chemical.”
He also suspended the Sukkur wildlife deputy conservator Ghulam Muhammad Gadani for alleged negligence. Taj Muhammad Shaikh has replaced him.
Essarani said they have urged organisations representing fishermen to convince the fisher folk to avoid this practice from Guddu to Sukkur, which is the 190-kilometre area where the rare Indus blind dolphin species is found.
Three people have already been arrested and the government has launched an awareness campaign. A joint team comprising wildlife and fisheries officials has also been formed to patrol the area.
He said the licence system that has replaced the contracts has made it very easy for a many fishermen get the licences to fish. Bhurgari added that 150 Benazir Card licences have been distributed in the river area inhabited by the dolphins.
Meanwhile, Essarani clarified that the fishermen are not trying to hunt the dolphins, but they are falling prey to the chemicals.
To a question, he said that no recent survey has been carried out to ascertain the number of mammals and endangered species in Sindh. “We have limited resources, but we are going to conduct a survey in Kheerthar National Park and Tharparkar to ascertain the actual number of animals.”
Fisheries minister Bhurgari said the chemical report of the river water will be unveiled soon and cases against three fishermen have been registered under the fisheries act. Fifteen maund of fish catch has also been confiscated from the arrested fishermen. “The licence system was the longstanding demand of the people, but they are using it for their nefarious designs.”
There are also reports of fishermen allegedly bribing laboratory officials asking them to deny the use of poisonous chemical.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2011.
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