KARACHI: In the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Pakistan there is no constitutional cover to protect the wildlife species.
Talking to Daily Times Muhammad Moazzam Khan Technical adviser (Marine Fisheries) of World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Pakistan) pointed out protection of EEZ and protection of marine life was federal subject.
EEZ starts from 12 nautical miles from the seashore and it stretches to 200 nautical miles. EEZ of Pakistan is extended to 250,0000 square kilometers and it is abundant in species like whale-sharks, sharks, dolphin, turtles and so many other species. However there is no constitutional cover in this regard, he maintained.
To protect whale shark, there is also need to include it in schedule two of provincial law.
It is estimated there are around 400 to 500 whale-sharks in the EEZ of Pakistan, and there are around 19 kinds of dolphins and whales present in the area.
The marine life experts said unusual incidences of juvenile and sub-adult whale-sharks were observed in Pakistan waters during past two weeks.
The latest of the incidence was reported from Gwadar (Balochistan) where a juvenile whale-shark having a length of 6.7 meters (m) was entangled in fishermen gillnet. Abdul Rahim Site Coordinator WWF-Pakistan informed whale-shark was caught by fishermen at Cher Koh at West Bay Gwadar.
He said Pakistan waters are known to be the breeding and feeding ground for whale-sharks and a large population of this species abounded in our waters.
Coastal Scientific Society Pakistan a Gwader based conservation organisation has started a project, funded by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) under its Mangroves for the Future (MFF) programme that aimed at assessment and conservation of the whale-sharks in Pakistan waters.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan said during the last two weeks four specimens of whale-sharks were killed entangling in the fishing nets along the coast of Pakistan. Recent incidence of enmeshment reported from Gwader has increased to five. A whale-shark and a sub-adult of 5.1 m was landed at Karachi Fish Harbour (KFH) on April 21, 2014 which was caught by a bottom trawler at 36 m depth and was killed by fishermen. Similarly two whale-sharks having a length of 3.4 and 3.9 m respectively were landed at KFH on April 24, 2014. They were butchered and their flesh was sold to fish-meal processors. While on April 27, 2014, a 4.7 m long female was landed and immediately butchered. In addition a live whale-shark juvenile about 2.9 m was photographed by fishermen on April 22 from offshore waters at Ormara Balochistan.
He said there was ban on the international trade of whale-sharks or their fins because it is covered under Appendix-II of the CITES agreement to which Pakistan was signatory.
WWF-Pakistan is working closely with Wildlife Department of Sindh and Balochistan has suggested to include whale shark in Second Schedules of Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972 and Balochistan Wildlife Protection Act, 1974 so that these gentle giants might be protected under law.
Since a large population of whale-sharks exist in or beyond territorial waters of Pakistan, so there is a need to make a new act for protection of wildlife including whales, dolphins, turtles and whale sharks found in the EEZ of Pakistan.
Rab Nawaz Director WWF-Pakistan considered sudden increase in the occurrence of whale-sharks as unusual whichwas observed along the Pakistani coast. He remarked this increase in population might be on account of climate change impacts on marine life.
High temperature might result in increase production of planktons, which were main food for the whale-sharks. He urged for taking appropriate management measures for protection of whale-sharks in Pakistan. Nawaz said WWF-Pakistan was now maintaining an inventory of whale-sharks caught or reported from waters of Sindh and Balochistan.
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