Speakers suggest shark fishing ban to address decreasing numbers

144 shark species are found in Pakistani waters.

September 17, 2014
Speakers suggest shark fishing ban to address decreasing numbers

KARACHI: Shark population is on the decline in Pakistani waters, according to marine experts who urged authorities to come up with a plan to conserve the endangered species in the country.

The World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan), in collaboration with the Marine Fisheries Department, arranged a one-day international workshop on 'Conservation and Management of Shark Fisheries in Pakistan' at the Marriot Hotel on Monday.

The workshop was inaugurated by Republic of the Maldives Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee, who urged participants to follow the footsteps of the Maldives whose coastal waters and Exclusive Economic Zone have been declared a shark sanctuary.

"Shark fishing is completely banned in the Maldives in order to recover the declining population of sharks due to uncontrolled fishing methods," said Shainee. He suggested that all stakeholders, including the relevant government departments and representatives of non-governmental organisations, should sit together for the development of a National Plan of Action (NPOA) regarding conservation and management of sharks in Pakistan.

Discussing the history of shark fishing, Muhammad Moazzam Khan - former director-general of Marine Fisheries Department and WWF-Pakistan technical advisor - said that there are records that shark fishing existed in Karachi as long as 150 years ago.

According to Khan, 50,000 tonnes of fins and meat were being exported from Pakistan annually in 1980; now, the figure is down to just 5,000 tonnes due to the decrease in shark population. "It shows how rapidly we have lost sharks," he said.

Khan said that there are 144 shark species in Pakistan, adding that a few of them are endemic but their status is unknown. He said that the biology of about 35 species is regularly studied and there is an immediate need to declare at least some of the area as a shark sanctuary along the coast.

"The recent decline in catches indicates an alarming trend which needs to be addressed," WWF-Pakistan director Rab Nawaz pointed out, adding that sharks form an important part of Pakistani fisheries and are mainly caught unintentionally as a bycatch. Nawaz added that international assistance should be sought for the study and development of an NPOA for shark conservation.

"Shark meat is consumed locally. Its skin is dried and used in poultry feed, which is in high demand," said marine expert Naeem Ashraf Raja. "We do not have the exact figures of Pakistan's shark trade."

Coordinator for the Indian Ocean Tuna Fisheries, Umair Shahid, said that there is an urgent need to collect data on the population of sharks in Pakistani waters. He also emphasised that sharks may be caught for research purposes but not for commercial use.

Hussain Sinan, of the Maldives Fisheries and Agriculture Ministry, discussed the ban on shark fishing in the Maldives and its impact on tourism. He claimed that shark population is increasing due to the ban in his country, adding that the same needs to be done in Pakistan.

WWF-Pakistan senior director Dr Ejaz Ahmad pointed out that WWF-Pakistan had started working on sharks in 2006 and has been involved in its monitoring ever since. "Many countries have successfully implemented an NPOA for sharks, but in certain shark-fishing countries like Pakistan, such an NPOA has not been prepared yet."

Marine Fisheries Department director-general Shoukat Hussain talked about fishing trends in Pakistan. "Shark is an important fishing commodity but its catch is decreasing due to overfishing," he said. "The government is aware of the need for the development of an NPOA and a draft is being prepared."

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.


mazhar butt | 9 years ago | Reply

Back until 90's huge sharks were landed at the Karachi Fish Harbor but now it is really hard to find even a single large shark there. This is a proof that sharks have been overkilled and their population is almost negligible now. Unfortunately, no measures were ever taken by the fishery authorities to regulate their catches and most of the sharks were caught by drag netters during their cruises basically meant for shrimp catching,

Until late 80's dried salted fish and shark fins were handled by commission agents or auctioneers called mole holders appointed by Fishermen Co-operative society for this specific purpose. Separate mole holders were licensed to sell only fresh fish but after the shark landings dwindled the mole holders licensed to exclusively deal in dried salted fish and shark fins were inserted into the fresh fish trade thereby not only grossly increasing the number of mole holders but also disturbing the whole system without control.

Shark fins are very expensive aphrodisiac and fetch immensely high price in Hong Kong and China where it used to be exported in the past. After the sharks were finned the body meat was salted and dried and mainly sold to Sri Lanka as food item. Unfortunately, a few Japanese entrepreneurs tried to buy shark skins and had infact trained a seafood exporter but after deskining which required professional skill the shark meat was not readily salable to cover the cost. Only big sharks of about 8 feet or more were chosen for skinning and after their skins were pickled they were shipped to Japan as 'blue wet' ..However, this trial failed for reasons of its inability to meet economic gain.

Thus being the situation in the past it is high time that shark population be conserved and special rules and regulations be made to regulate its catch, Unfortunately,, as said above, most sharks are mainly caught by drag netters..and the only way to conserve sharks is to ban drag netters and purse seiners from not bringing shark catches to the harbor for sale,. Instead they be instructed to throw back into the sea the sharks that may get trapped accidentally in their nets. However, with risen prices of fish on the whole, and domestic consumer preference for ' boneless' fish fillet or chunks sharks provide them a golden opportunity to have and sell them at juicy prices to the consumers. Given this domestic trend and weak fishery management it is doubtful if a ban on accidental shark fishing would be complied with at all.

Moiz Omar | 9 years ago | Reply We need to protect these sharks.
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