KARACHI: Hundreds of fishermen participating in a rally held to mark World Fisheries Day on Tuesday urged the Sindh government to free all water bodies from illegal occupation and take steps to address the problem of marine pollution.

Organised by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), the rally started from Regal Chowk and culminated at the Karachi Press Club. It attracted fishermen and civil society members from various parts of Sindh. Many of them wore traditional dresses and danced as inspirational songs were played during the rally.

Voicing concern over the government’s failure in tackling fishermen’s longstanding issues, PFF chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah said hundreds of inland water bodies had been illegally occupied by landlords and other influential people, forcing poor fishermen to explore other means of livelihood.

“There is no justification for controlling water bodies given the fact that fishermen possess licence for fishing and the superior courts have also stated that only fishermen have the right to catch fish,” he said.

He also spoke about fishermen’s frequent detention by Indian authorities and said currently more than 150 Pakistani fishermen were languishing in Indian jails.

“Inhumane acts of the Indian government have pushed families of incarcerated Pakistani fishermen into starvation,” he said.

He urged the Sindh government to define the fisheries policy and called for adopting resolutions in the Sindh Assembly against overfishing, habitat destruction and other issues posing a serious threat to the sustainability of marine and freshwater resources.

Mustafa Mirani, Gulab Shah, Noor Mohammed, Mohammed Mallah, Umer Mallah and Ramzan Mallah also spoke.

Marine protected areas

Meanwhile, experts at a programme jointly organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan, the livestock and fisheries department and the Engro Foundation, underscored the need for declaring more marine protected areas in Sindh and Balochistan as means to conserve resources.

“Presently Pakistan only has one marine protected area (MPA) — the Astola Island. There is an immediate need to declare Miani Hor and Churna Island as two potential MPAs by government of Balochistan, Cape Monze by the government of Sindh and the Indus Canyon by the federal government,” Mohammad Moazzam Khan, technical adviser (fisheries) with WWF-P, said.

Ghulam Mohammed Mahar, director general of Sindh fisheries department, gave an overview of the status of fisheries in Sindh and suggested measures for its improvement. He stressed the need for promotion of aquaculture along Sindh and Balochistan coast.

Mohammed Wasim Khan, director general of marine fisheries department, threw light on the depleting fisheries stocks in Pakistan and stressed the need to reduce fleet size and impose effective ban on shrimp fishing during June and July. He also presented the results of surveys conducted by the marine fisheries department with support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Sohail Akbar Shah, secretary of livestock and fisheries department, said that the government was taking measures to modernise the fisheries sector, including establishment of a floating jetty, modern fishermen’s village and desalination plants at major landing centres.

Later, he along with other officials signed a pledge on behalf of the government of Sindh to protect marine biodiversity by establishing a network of marine protected areas in Sindh.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2017

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