A boat skipper who recently pulled a dead whale shark to the dock from deep sea realised his mistake after the harbour authorities refused him to pay for his huge by-catch. The cost of the dead carcass may range between Rs 50,000 and Rs 75,000, officials of Karachi Fish Harbour Authority (KFHA) told Business Recorder on Saturday, adding that “the payment will never be made to the skipper to discourage such attempts in future.”
Pakistan is one of the signatory countries to the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) to step up to daunt fishermen to land endangered marine species. Boat skipper Muhammad Juman was seeking a compensation for his by-catch, the officials said, adding that “KFHA confiscated the catch from him and decided not pay a single penny to him.”
Officials ruled out any other penalty that the authorities may impose on the skipper. “It is enough to let him regret his decision of pulling the shark to the harbour.” They said it is also a lesson for others to understand that their efforts may go in vain if they ever tried to sail back along with endangered species. The dead shark tangled accidentally in the net 70 nautical miles off Karachi coast close to Churna Island, Arabian Sea. The seafarers brought the whale shark, which weighted about 3 tons and measured about 14-15 feet, to harbour on Feb1, this year.
The KFHA officials said the skin of the shark has been sent Friday to Islamabad for stuffing after research experts dissected it to ascertain the reasons behind its death and know its age. “The skin has been dispatched for stuffing to Pakistan Museum of Natural History, which may take at least six months to complete,” they said, adding that the KFHA has also requested the museum to return it after stuffing to display it as a whale shark model at the harbour. The stuffed effigy may be displayed at Sindh Museum, Hyderabad, they said.
On February 7, 2012, the local fishermen trapped a dead whale shark which was 22-ton heavy and 11-meter long. The fishermen sold it for Rs 180,000. The berthing of the endangered species loaded criticism on Pakistan for weak government policies to protect such vulnerable species within its waters.
Whale Shark falls in the context of red-list of the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), showing its perilous state. The biggest whale shark was caught at Baba Island of Keamari in 1947, which measured 36-feet long and weighted 50 tons. The mammoth catch still ranks the largest trap of whale shark in the world, according to Marine Fisheries Department. “Since 2006, at least 36 whale sharks have been killed in fishing operations along Pakistan coast,” said Technical Advisor of WWF-Pakistan, Muhammad Moazzam Khan.
There are no official statistics available on population of the gentle giant in the country, however a personal research of Moazzam Khan suggested that juveniles or sub-adults ranging between 2.5 feet and about 15 feet are the widely-killed species during fishing. The Fund showed concern over the fishermen’s practice of carrying the endangered spices to coasts for making quick bucks, instead of freeing them in open waters.