THATTA: A 20-foot-long whale shark, classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, was accidentally trapped in a gill net set up by local fishermen in offshore waters off Khobar Creek and brought to shore for sale.

The fishermen told journalists that they tried to disentangle the giant fish but failed and then brought it to their village, Jhangi Sar, by tying it to the boat’s side. Since it was a holiday that day, they could not sell it in market and the fish was still in their possession, they said.

The whale shark is listed as endangered on the IUCN’s Red List. It is included in Appendix-II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and is proposed to be included in Appendix-I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. It is also covered under other international instruments including the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, of which Pakistan is a member.

In Sindh and Balochistan, catching, landing and marketing of the whale shark had been banned since 2016, under respective fisheries legislation.

WWF-Pakistan is running a crew-based observer programme for the conservation of this gentle giant, which was found in coastal areas of both Sindh and Balochistan, with main hotspots at Ghora Bari, Khobar Creek, Khajjar Creek, Cape Monze, Churna Island, Malan-Sapat, Gwadar and Gunz.

Under this programme, WWF-P trained about 100 fishermen in 2012 in releasing whale sharks back after they were entangled in gill nets and since then, a total of 121 whale sharks had been safely released by the trained fishermen, said WWF-P officials.

Moazzam Khan, technical adviser to WWF-P, stressed the need for proactive action in this regard by the department of fisheries so that fishermen might not catch this endangered species in the first place.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2021

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