A recent report informed us that Pakistan’s fishermen are violating rules regarding the use of gill nets and that about 30 dolphins and several whale sharks are killed every month after becoming entangled in these illegal nets. Additionally, several turtles also die after being caught in the nets, and every so often, Karachi and Gwadar find a dead whale or shark lying entangled in a net on their shores.
A meeting of the Working Party on Ecosystems initiated by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) concluded that Pakistan was in violation of several international resolutions, including trespassing of Pakistan’s economic fishing zone. However, the IOTC said that the matter of using large-scale nets instead of the legal two-and-a-half-kilometre size is the most serious violation. This matter must be investigated by the responsible government authority and laws need to be implemented before Pakistan’s treasured marine life becomes extinct.
Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the government is allowed to implement measures to protect endangered species. Of course, this was not our biggest hindrance to protecting our marine life; it is that the government has not yet paid enough attention to the matter of enforcing regulations on capturing marine life. Regulations should include quotas on the number of catch and fines for capturing or killing endangered species. Furthermore, many creatures are caught in discarded gill nets, which is worrying because some species, such as certain sharks, have low reproductive potentials to begin with. Fines should be levied on those caught littering in our waters so that they think twice about doing it again. While catching and exporting tuna using large gill nets has significant economic returns because it is highly valued in the international market, the government needs to regulate its capture and develop a system where other by-catch and non-targeted species are conserved and remain unharmed.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2012.
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