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Rare fish Mobula japanica released in waters

KARACHI: World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Pakistan) efforts to conserve rare and precious marine animals achieved another hallmark when fishermen released a large spinetail mobula ray Mobula japanica from their net after a struggle of more than an hour. The release was done by WWF-Pakistan trained fishermen in offshore waters near Ras Malan, Lasbela district Balochistan. This is first instance when fishermen were able to release this rare animal in Pakistani waters. Previously, all such mobulids were killed and thrown back into the sea or sold as trash fish for processing into fishmeal. Earlier, fishermen had also safely released 6 whale sharks, which are threatened species. Rab Nawaz Director WWF-Pakistan said fishermen were now concerned about protection of threatened species found in Pakistani coastline. On various occasions, they have to scarify a part of their costly fishing nets to get the endangered marine animal released. There are reports of safe release of whales, turtles, whale sharks and now a mobulid which is a hallmark achieved through creation of awareness and training to the fishermen by WWF-Pakistan, he added. Mohammad Moazzam Khan technical adviser Marine Fisheries WWF-Pakistan informed the mobula rays or mobulids included large species of fishes, closely related to sharks and stingrays. The mobulids can grow to very large size with some manta ray individuals reaching up to 9 meters wide. These fishes are commonly found in the warmer, tropical of waters of the world’s oceans. Manta rays are graceful swimmer and their short tail allows the manta ray to have more acrobatic movement and they even leap out of the water. There are six species of mobulids which belong to two genra Manta and Mobula are reported in Pakistan. Giant manta (Manta birostris) is the largest of the mobulids found in Pakistan. There were a number of records of this species either basking or leaping out of water behind Churna Island. There has been no record of this species from Pakistani waters for more than 30 years. In addition to Manta four species of Mobula are also reported from Pakistan include longhorned mobula (Mobula eregoodootenkee), spinetail mobula (Mobula japonica), shortfin devil ray (Mobula tarapacana), Chilean devil ray (Mobula kuhlii) and smoothtail mobula (Mobula thurstoni). Karachi Fish harbor and Gwadar are main areas where these species are landed. According to Muhammad Moazzam Khan the main reason for their decline was their slow reproduction rate. These animals produce only a single pup and it is presumed that female only reproduces a few times in her life span. Low reproduction rate and their mortality in fishing gears especially in gillnets are main cause of their declining population in Pakistan and other countries of the world. Samples for genetic analysis of various species of mobulids are being collected and they are being compared with those found in regional countries to determine their population structure and gene flow. 

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