KARACHI: Expressing concern over a recent catch of 18 high-prized large croakers in the Daran-Gunz area of Jiwani, Balochistan, experts at the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) warned that the species might go extinct in Pakistan’s waters if the particular site was not protected.

According to reports, the largest specimen fetched Rs500,000, whereas the smaller around Rs100,000.

“This area stretched over eight to nine kilometres between Daran and Gunz is apparently being used by croakers as a site for spawning aggregation for some years. Unfortunately, some fishermen have discovered this site and fast wiping out the remaining population of this species in our waters,” explained Muhammad Moazzam Khan, technical adviser at WWF-P said.

There was an immediate need to protect the species by declaring their habitat as marine protected area, or Fisheries Refugia, he added.

According to WWF officials, spotted croaker and Japanese meager are two species of large croakers found in Pakistan and fetch very high prices.

Large croakers, they say, are local migrants and form large spawning aggregations, locally known as “Aáranga” in Balochistan and “Pinn” in Sindh.

Two decades ago, these aggregations were frequently observed in the coastal waters off Jiwani, Gwadar, Ormara, Sonmiani Bay and off the Indus delta, and they used to be harvested for decades because of their high quality meat.

According to Mr Khan, the species called Kir in Balochi language fetched high price due to its large swim bladder, commonly known as fish maws, which these species use for buoyancy and communication.

“It is used in making soups and believed to ease pregnancy-related discomfort and cure joint pains, among other ailments. A single swim bladder could fetch as much as Rs5 million per kg in the Hong Kong or Guangzhou market.”

An increased demand of fish maws in Chinese markets, Mr Khan pointed out, had depleted the stocks of large croakers globally and some other species such as yellow croakers in China and totoaba from Baja California.

The export of its swim bladder from Pakistan started about 70 years back when dried fish maws were used to be exported to Europe for clarification of wine and beer. However, due to the high prices offered in the Chinese market and the availability of alternates for clarification, dried fish maws now end up only in the Chinese market.

Sudheer Ahmed, research associate at WWF-P’s information centre at Jiwani, said the occurrence of spawning aggregations was being frequently reported from the Daran-Jiwani area for the last four years.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2022

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