In 2013, Save Our Seas Foundation supported WWF Pakistan to asses the impacts of gillnets of the Pakistani coastline.
Massive nets, sometimes up to 12 km long are left out overnight and trap devastating amounts of bycatch.
With the help of SOSF, Rab Nawaz of WWF Pakistan has appointed local people to observe and record bycatch on fishing boats and at landing sites. This will hopefully provide enough data to convince the Pakistani government that switching from gillnets to long lines would be a positive move, both for the marine environment and for the people who depend on it.
Another positive impact of Rab’s work is that fishermen have been trained to safely release animals that have been unintentionally caught in their nets. Below is a story from The Nation, that describes the successful release of a juvenile whale shark.
Reporting by: Ramzan Chandio of the Nation
KARACHI – Fishermen successfully saved and released a 12-foot juvenile whale shark in offshore waters.
The juvenile whale shark was found entangled in a tuna gillnet about 193 km southeast of Karachi. Fishermen trained by WWF-Pakistan saved the whale shark.
Prior to this, on 24th September 2013 another juvenile whale shark was released by fishermen in the same area.
There is no targeted fishery for whale shark in Pakistan. They are neither consumed locally nor exported. However, fishermen extract oil from their livers and use it for smearing the hull of fishing boats to keep them smooth. The meat is used for poultry farming.
Whale shark entanglement causes damage to the net, which is a big loss for fishermen. Because of this, these gentle giants have often been killed.
WWF-Pakistan initiated an awareness campaign aimed at fishermen and trained them to safely release the trapped whale sharks. Through these efforts, two whale sharks (3.5 and 3 meter) have been released by fishermen so far.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, ex-Director general, Marine Fisheries department presently working as technical Advisor, WWF-Pakistan pointed out that the coast of Pakistan is considered to be an important breeding ground for whale sharks, therefore, neonates, juveniles and sub-adults are commonly found in the area.
Fisherman, Shah Zamin Khan Nakhuda of the vessel “Al-Gul Muhammad” struggled for hours to safely release the whale shark. During the operation, a part of the fishing net was damaged. The fishermen strived very hard to ensure that the animal was not hurt in release.
WWF-Pakistan has also started training fishermen to handle and release entrapped turtles, and dolphins.