KARACHI - The coastline of Pakistan abounds in diverse marine life. Rare species such as whale sharks, dolphins, turtles and other marine life have been reported in these waters.

To explore it further, WWF-Pakistan carried out a sailing voyage from Dubai to Karachi between19 to 26 February 2014 with an objective to highlight unique marine ecology of the region and record sightings of significant marine wildlife. The expedition stopped at Gwadar on its way to Karachi.

The expedition was led by Khalid Mahmood, President WWF-Pakistan along with other members including a French sailor, Mr Jaques Loubry, and an Italian skipper, Mr Edoardo Camillo Everardo.

Besides sailing, crew members kept personal non-formal records of sightings, including of whales, dolphins, whale sharks, and boat pollution and fisher practices that are damaging flora and fauna of the seas.

Speaking on the occasion, Khalid Mahmood said that various fish species were decreasing due to illegal trawling, untreated sewerage into the sea and uncontrolled use of small mesh size nets. He informed that during the last twenty years fisheries resources have declined drastically, and commercial fisheries catches have been dwindling throughout the years. According to Indian Ocean Tuna Commission the maximum sustainable yield level in the Indian Ocean for tuna has been set to 300,000 m tonnes, whereas at present more than 400,000 m tonnes of tuna is being caught in all of the Indian Ocean.

Pakistan still has hope and needs to tap on the potential of fisheries. He also appreciated the efforts of the Government of Pakistan who have encouraged small size fishers by restricting foreign fishing vessels harvesting in Pakistani waters. He pointed out that vessels, whether large or small, tend to dump their oil in their own Pakistani waters which has caused huge problems in terms of mortality of marine species.

He also explained that Pakistan’s coastline is rich in biodiversity and has 17 species of Cetaceans including dolphins, whales and finless porpoise. Among them they documented 5 species. He also mentioned that Whale Sharks are located in Pakistani, Omani and Irani waters and are considered gentle giants. With around 350 million gallons of untreated waste water being released into the sea on a daily basis, of which 20 per cent is treated by a plant installed in Karachi, chances of survival of these marine species look slim and requires immediate action from media, press and people from all spheres of life.

Moreover, he said that Thailand was earning around 0.2 billion dollars from Marine Tourism and likewise Pakistan could generate sufficient income through this industry. Mr. Khalid Mahmood also commented that nations perish in isolation but could only flourish if they come into contact with one another. Cultural exchange and economic growth are possible through this contact. He demanded the proper implementation of laws and said that untreated waste water of factories and houses should not be allowed into sea. He also announced that the next week, his boat would conduct a Peace Mission to Iran and India and document the marine life there.

Edoardo Camillo Everardo, an Italian sailor said he has been sailing since he was 12 years old. He was impressed by the beauty and importance of oceans while he sailed. He further said that Pakistan has a beautiful coastline where tourism can be promoted. He also said that fishing communities in Pakistan lack basic facilities of life and their lifestyle could only be improved by provision of these facilities.

Jacques Loubry, a French sailor, said that a fish stock survey is needed because rare fish species were disappearing from the Arabian Sea. He further said that one’s carbon footprint can only be reduced if appropriate efforts are taken by all stakeholders.

Rab Nawaz, Regional Director, WWF-Pakistan commented that WWF-Pakistan has already started an awareness campaign in coastal communities of Balochistan and Sindh to train and educate fishing communities who accidentally capture and main or kill marine life in their nets. He further said that as a result of the campaign fishermen have successfully released a number of whale sharks, dolphins and turtles during the last and current years. He also emphasized that WWF-Pakistan is planning to enhance the awareness campaign and provide training to more fisherfolk communities.