KARACHI: Listing the multiple challenges Pakistan faces in the fisheries sector at an event held at a hotel here on Monday, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi said “the tug of war” between the federal and the provincial [Sindh] government was a major impediment to fisheries’ development. He emphasised the need for working together.
He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 22nd session of the Scientific Committee of Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) in which officials from 16 countries are participating.
It’s the first IOTC scientific committee meeting being held in Pakistan, which became a member of the commission in 1995, and will conclude on Friday.
Though speaking at an international forum, the minister minced no words in accepting that the working relationship between the federal and Sindh governments was poor and affecting administrative functions.
Tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean are at risk of terminal decline, experts note
“The tug of war [over shared marine resources existing in separate jurisdictions] between the federal and the provincial [Sindh] governments is one of the biggest challenges,” the minister said, adding that functioning of governments led by two different political parties made things tough.
The minister regretted that the provincial government looked at the federal government’s initiatives for fisheries’ development as “intrusion” in its affairs and underscored the need for working together.
“Pakistan has a great potential in the fisheries sector and cooperation will benefit all,” he said.
The minister also spoke about growing pollution affecting the Indus River, the coast and the sea and said continued discharge of untreated sewage into the sea had “destroyed the fisheries sector”.
“This hasn’t only threatened marine life but also humans, especially in Sindh. We must fix this problem as a nation,” he said, adding that a shortage of trained human resource and massive encroachment of Karachi Port Trust’s land — about 80 per cent of its total land — were matters that needed to be addressed.
“The country had no fisheries commissioner for a decade and it was only recently that a person has been appointed on this post,” he said.
Sindh and Balochistan have control over territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles from the coast whereas the federal government’s jurisdiction is 200 nautical miles, called the exclusive economic zone. There is a buffer zone of eight nautical miles between the two jurisdictions.
The ceremony was also addressed by IOTC scientific committee chair Dr Shiham Adam, IOTC executive secretary Dr Chris O’ Brien and commissioner of fisheries Dr Safia Mushtaq.
Talking to Dawn about the significance of IOTC meeting in Karachi, officials of the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P), acting as an observer at the meeting, explained that tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean were at risk of terminal decline unless significant and rapid improvements were made to fisheries management.
The environmental organisation, they said, was calling on IOTC scientists to provide a clear and robust set of recommendations to halt the alarming overexploitation of stocks, particularly of yellowfin tuna.
The recommendations agreed by the scientific committee this week will be considered at a meeting of IOTC Commission in June 2020, where a new management plan will be adopted.
About the meeting’s importance from Pakistan’s perspective, Mohammad Moazzam Khan, technical adviser on marine resources at the WWF-P, said an important event highlight was discussion on Pakistan’s data on its tuna fisheries.
“If members find it satisfactory, they will recommend the same for approval to the commission. One of the nine IOTC working parties has already endorsed the data,” he said.
There are 16 tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean. The meeting is being attended by officials from countries including Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, European Union, Iran, the Maldives, France and Tanzania.
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2019