Federal Minister for Climate Change, Zahid Hamid, Lauded on Friday the Balochsitan government for declaring Astola Island, which is the most important globally known biodiversity hotspot and the largest island along Pakistan’s coast, a marine protected area.
The Balochistan government in a historic move declared on June 15 the country’s largest offshore island, Jazira Haft Talar, better known as Astola through a notification a country’s first Marine Protected Area (MPA).
The declaration of MPAs is an international obligation of the federal government under the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Aichi Biodiversity (ABD) Target No. 11. Agreed in 2010, the ABDs call for member countries to declare at least 10 percent of their coastal and marine areas as MPAs, especially the areas of biodiversity significance.
Highlighting the unprecedented importance of the Astola Island, the minister said The Astola Island is ecologically important, as its beaches provide nesting ground for the endangered green turtle and hawks-bill turtle, while also supporting a large variety of migratory birds.
"The Astola saw-scaled viper is endemic to the island. While being treeless, due to the absence of a fresh water source, the island’s vegetation consists of scrubs and large bushes. The island’s marine ecology supports a variety of corals, creating a breeding ground fora vast range of marine species.
"Astola Island is located approximately 25 km off the coast of Pasni, a fishing port town in Gwadar district of the Balochistan province. Spanning 6.7 km2 it is Pakistan’s largest offshore island."
The minister recalled the process to notify Astola Island as a MPA was initiated a few years ago under the auspices of Mangroves for the Future Programme, a regional grouping of South and Southeast Asian countries of which Pakistan is currently the co-chair.
He said his ministry’s team led by him undertook to spearhead the process of declaration of MPAs in 2016 after attending the Oceans Conference in Washington at the invitation of outgoing US Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry.
Also, Secretary of Climate Change Syed Abu Ahmad Akif said that the climate change minister Zahid Hamid in April 2017 visited Astola along with Commander Coast Pakistan Navy, Rear Admiral Abdul Aleem and that he also met the Balochistan chief minister to help complete the formalities in connection with declaration of Astola as marine protected area. “This declaration would have not been possible to come about without concerted efforts led by minister Zahid Hamid and very active collaboration of the Balochistan government and its forest and wildlife department.