Experts urge for endorsement of NPOA for sharks conservation in Pakistan
Karachi, During the second day of three-day workshop organized by WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with Ministry of Climate Change,the key stakeholders including WWF-Pakistan, Ministry of Climate Change, Marine Fisheries Department Government of Pakistan, National Institute of Oceanography, Ministry of Ports and Shipping, Sindh and Balochistan Fisheries departments and IUCN Pakistan emphasized the need to collect data regarding shark fishery in Pakistan. The speakers also said that the National Plan of Action (NPOA)provides a viable mechanism for conservation of sharks in the country.They also proposed that three ecologically significant and endangered Chondrichthyian species should be designated as ‘Iconic Species’ which includes sawfishes, whale sharks and mobulids.
The NPOA states that a key lever of change in context of Pakistan is to address the gap in the data for improved management of significant shark and ray species. This needs to be done through a robust observer scheme on-board tuna gillnet vessels and collection of data from landing sites. This will help abridge management and implementation on the basis of sound recovery or conservation management in form of compliance to Indian Ocean Tuna Commission resolutions. NPOA also calls for piloting the transformation from gillnets to longline that is expected to reduce shark mortality in fishing operations along with any other exclusion measures. It also urges Government of Pakistan inclusive of provincial and federal departments should participate in shark management and support research, data collection and communicate effectively with responsible non-government agencies including markets together.
Speaking on the occasion, Naeem Ashraf Raja, Director Biodiversity Programme, Climate Change Division, Government of Pakistan said that there are approximately 500 gillnets vessels and around 800 trawlers associated with fishing. However, data on landings is not available especially regarding the sharks and rays. He also shared that these species are caught as by-catch during industrial fisheries of shrimps, tuna and other target fisheries. Regarding shark trade in Pakistan, he commented that fins of the species are exported to the countries like Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan where these are in high demand. He also said that meat of shark is sold to local vendors who sell it as fried finger fish while its skin is dried and used in poultry feed. He suggested that Government of Pakistan may for the moment consider introducing ban on export of shark fins or products as precautionary measure till clear management options are reached.
Rab Nawaz, Senior Director-Biodiversity WWF-Pakistan shared that action plan for sharks highlights the areas of concern that need special and immediate attention from short term to long-term goals. This draws a road map for having an improved management system for shark fisheryof Pakistan. He emphasized the need for establishing a database on shark fishery and strengthen identification of reliable data.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Adviser, Marine Fisheries, WWF-Pakistan shared that data collection mechanism for sharks need to be implemented at all landing sites in Sindh and Balochistan which can help assess the status of species. According to him there are around 74 landing sites in both provinces.He was of the view that it is the mandate of provincial governments to keep record of all fishes including sharks catch at each landing site. Furthermore, he also said that we are losing the traditional knowledge about marine life which need to be conserved as it is very important for their conservation and management of fisheries resources. He also urged the relevant stakeholders to endorse the NPOA developed by WWF-Pakistan after consultation process.
UmairShahid, Coordinator, WWF-Pakistan outlining key objectives of the plan shared that it aims to assess threats to shark population, determines and protects critical habitats and implements harvesting strategies consistent with the principals of biological sustainability and rational long-term use. In addition, it intends to minimize unutilized accidental catches of sharks and ensures that shark catches from target and non-target fisheries are sustainable. He also shared that main goal of this plan is to ensure shark resources of Pakistan are conserved for their long-term viability, consumption, trade and benefit to all fishers. He shared that data collection for sharks will be initiated withinsix months and WWF-Pakistan and Marine Fisheries Department (MFD) would take lead in this activity.
Ahmed Nadeem, Director, Balochistan Coastal Development Authority sharing the local perspective about sharks said that traditional fishermen are well aware about sharks, the allied species and their role in marine ecosystem. He was of the view that whale sharks have been a non-targeted species for them. He also shared that rostrum of sawfish has a religious value as earlier it was put into some shrines in Balochistan for attracting good fortune. ‘Traditional fishermen are ready to sacrifice their costly nets for releasing endangered species’, he added.
The participants appreciated the efforts of WWF-Pakistan for developing National Plan of Action for sharks which they considered is essential for conservation and management of this fishery in Pakistan.
RukhsanaAsghar Chaudhry, Director Fisheries Sindh, Marine; Dr. Andy Cornish, leader Global Shark Programme, WWF-Hong Kong;Asad RafiChandna, DG Port and Shipping, Government of Pakistan, Dr. M. Shoaib Kiani and other officials from relevant department spoke on the occasion.
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