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KARACHI, April 30: Of the 24 Indus River dolphins found dead in January, 18 had reportedly died from poisoning as fishermen misused the Benazir card for excessive catch, said Sindh Wildlife Minister Dr Dayaram in the Sindh Assembly on Monday.

The fishermen used poisonous substance to maximize catch, said the minister while responding to a question asked by PML-F’s Nusrat Abbasi during a question hour pertaining to the wildlife department.

He said a local laboratory had confirmed that poison was the cause of death. Other samples sent to the Karachi University’s zoological department lab for reconfirmation could not be analysed, he said, adding that the laboratory stated the specimen had decayed.

He said the wildlife and fisheries departments had taken up the matter with the fishermen so that they should not use poisonous substance or did not fish at all in the Dolphin Reserve — the Indus River course between Guddu and Sukkur barrages. He said that a summary seeking imposition of ban on fishing in the Dolphin Reserve during a specific season had also been sent to the chief minister, who had not yet signed it.

The minister said it had become difficult to monitor thousands of fishermen since the contract system had been done away with.

He explained that in the previous contract system, only a few contractors were allowed to catch fish. The contract system was replaced with the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto card system to allow the poor fishermen to equally benefit from the fish resources by spending only Rs110 per card, he added.

About the death of other dolphins, he said that two of them had drifted from the upstream (Punjab) and got entangled in a net, while four had strayed into the canal system.