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People gather around the female whale shark which was brought to the Karachi Fish Harbour for auction on Wednesday. — Photo by Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
People gather around the female whale shark which was brought to the Karachi Fish Harbour for auction on Wednesday. — Photo by Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: A five-metre-long whale shark weighing between three and four tonnes was caught in Balochistan and brought to Karachi Fish Harbour where it was auctioned on Wednesday before being chopped and transported to markets to be used in poultry feed.

The female whale shark was caught with the help of a shrimp trawler and reportedly sold for Rs16,000.

This was the eighth reported incident of whale shark being incidentally or deliberately caught here by fishermen since February 2012, according to marine experts.

The sub-adult whale shark was caught by fishermen from Karachi who found it near the coastal town of Phor (situated between Ormara and Sonmiani) in Balochistan.

The marine experts said Pakistan along with India was among the very few countries where documented record of their breeding existed.

Considered as the largest living fish species, the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) — also called the Gentle Giant of the Sea — is listed ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is included in the Appendix 2 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) that means restriction on its trade.

“This is an illegal catch as we have received information that the trawling was being carried out within 12 nautical miles of Balochistan coast which is banned under the law. Also, fishermen from Karachi had come to Balochistan for fishing,” said World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan’s technical adviser (marines resources) Mohammad Moazzam Khan.

The northern Arabian Sea bordering the coast of Pakistan, he said, was one of the most important feeding and breeding ground for the species in the world.

“The whale shark is not consumed in Pakistan. Its meat is used for fish meal, liver for extraction of oil for smearing the hull of fishing vessels to keep it smooth while fins are illegally exported to Hong Kong and China where they are used to make soup,” he added.

According to Mr Khan, the species is found in tropical and subtropical waters of the world ocean. It is known to be found in Pakistan since long while the first account of their organized fishing anywhere in the world is also stated to be reported in Pakistan. Fortunately, the fishing was practically stopped in early 1970s.

WWF-P Director Rab Nawaz stressed the need for immediate inclusion of the species in Schedule-I of the Wildlife Act of Sindh and Balochistan so that its enmeshing, trade and utilization in any form could be banned in Pakistan.

India, he said, had already included whale sharks in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (under sub section (1) of section 61) on May 28, 2001.

“There is a need to have a robust and adequate management system in place to avoid catching of non-target species. Sharks in general are now considered critically endangered and there is a lot of concern regarding conservation of these species.

“We, therefore, urge the government, research organisations and other stakeholders to take necessary steps such as transformation of fishing gears and, most importantly, regular collection of data that may help bridge gaps for improved fisheries management and make us move towards compliance to international agreements to which Pakistan is a signatory,” said Smart Fishing Initiative/WWF-Pakistan coordinator Umair Shahid.

Comments (22) Closed

rana1 Mar 27, 2014 09:12am

DAWN, sadly not much to be said here on this topic.

syed Mar 27, 2014 12:01pm

you are worried about one shark being caught? go to UAE's deira fish market, they capture dozens of sharks everyday and their fins are sent to China to make fin soup, this Chinese superstition is causing the demise of so many animals in the wild and in ocean. Ask a fisherman why you killing sharks? he will say, sahib pait to bharna ha aur jo milta hay pani se wohi pakrain gay na.

To a fisherman from a village, a fish is a fish, the bigger the better, he is more worried about his stomach and kids than your conventions and treaties. Already fish stocks in our seas are depleting so the fisherman is catching what they can and its only going to get worst.

N K Ali Mar 27, 2014 12:11pm

If our village politicians start to vitaminize the lives of their electorate, then these occurrences of killing whale sharks for earning livelihood will disappear. (Thar famine disaster, 2010 Sindh floods calamity). Remember the golden rule, "Once a paindoo, always and a paindoo." Salams

Cynthia Mar 27, 2014 02:56pm

What a Waste! Chicken food? Really sad and disgusting end for such a beautiful creature.

kashif Mar 27, 2014 05:30pm

this shark will be feed in hotels and weddings etc as fresh and cheap fish...all over the city....;)

Asad Malik Mar 27, 2014 06:17pm

Used as poultry feed. So essentially, we are eating chicken raised on meat which no longer makes it halal. Might as well start eating other meat eaters.

El Cid Mar 27, 2014 06:27pm

Pakistan's coastal waters are one of the richest in the World in a large variety of fish. However, it is being fished massively, depleted by foreign factory ships. Pak government allows it due to its lack of vision.

JQ Mar 27, 2014 07:40pm

McDonald's will release new Fish Zinger Burger deal very soon.

JQ Mar 27, 2014 07:42pm

@Cynthia: Its sad but apart from that what is the beautiful thing?

EQ8Rhomes Mar 27, 2014 10:28pm

@Asad Malik: Halal has two: elelments: 1. Thanks to Allah. 2. Bleeding so no blood is consumed. N0. 2. is a fantasy.

Youth Mar 27, 2014 11:07pm

Good. eatable wild life is for the benefit of humans, those who have made rules for wild life protection are themselves involved in culling them

NASAH (USA) Mar 27, 2014 11:27pm

Please do not kill these magnificent gentle giants -- this is an endangered species.

ubaid Mar 27, 2014 11:39pm

@syed: Sad but truth is what you said.

Aj Mar 27, 2014 11:58pm

@NASAH (USA): Extremely sad. Pakistan must learn to respect such beautiful creatures.

Imran Mar 28, 2014 02:51am

It is a sad reality of Pakistan. Politicians are above the law and taxes. Taliban are allowed to kill people at will. The poor man cannot protect himself. But I hope the officials follow up with the sellers and the buyers. Even if they take bribe to get the police off their backs, I would say that the police did their job. At least in future they will be deterred to catch or sell these endangered species.

Shakil Mar 28, 2014 04:28am

Catching a fish and eating is not a crime! It needs to be properly regulated at sustainable levels in Pakistan to protect eco system at our seas.

nouman Mar 28, 2014 09:24am

Fault lies with the system that has become so inefficient due to corruption,incompetency and lack of will that it is not able to prevent the inhuman practice of hunting endangered species.

John daroza Mar 28, 2014 04:39pm

This is vary sad that they do this these people know there not to go after these fish.

They move vary slow and need to be netted to be caught with a net as there not going to get caught with a hook.

It's vary sad and I,m upset over this as a sportsman a diver and a traveler but most as a man!

ali Mar 28, 2014 06:59pm

I am glad that these treaties and acts do not apply on wild life else the cheetahs will be munching on Hardees and leopards on subways...bottom line is we all hunt! I personally do not agree with these international treaties and marine wildlife protection programs

Iqbal Qadir Mar 29, 2014 08:20am

When will Pakistanis realize the importance of environment and conservation of species? I guess never.. the growing arab influence on this country will make it into another desert... we have to go back to our old values..

Khanm Mar 29, 2014 04:39pm

when people slaughter donkies and sell its meat in the market . it is only shark.

Shakir Mar 30, 2014 10:52am

Shark and all type of fishes available in fish markets here in KSA.its meat is good for man as per my knowledge