Sindh Environment Secretary Baqaullah Unar on Wednesday expressed serious concerns over fast depleting marine resources during a meeting held to review deep sea fishing problems.
The secretary underscored the need for better coordination between all concerned departments. “We have all relevant laws but we need a will to impose them in letter and spirit,” Unar observed.
The meeting was attended by concerned stakeholders including the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency, Fisheries Department, Pakistan Customs, Boat Manufacturing Association and Karachi Water and Sewerage Board.
PMSA Director Operations, Commander Amjad Rais, informed the meeting’s attendees that the security agency has been playing a pivotal role in implementation of deep sea fishing policy. The PMSA strictly monitors licensed foreign and local fishing trawlers through both air and surface surveillance, he observed.
Identifying issues related to deep sea fishing, the director said that fish and shrimp landing has already dropped and to protect the interest of local fishermen, a buffer zone has been created some 12 to 20 nautical miles into the sea where no foreign fishing vessels are allowed to operate.
He said foreign trawlers come into the buffer zone and destroy unwanted store of fish and are also involved in transhipment; both these practices have negative implications on the ecosystem, he added.
Director General of the Fisheries Department, Ghulam Muhammad Mahar, stated that no fishing licences have been granted by the federal government over the past decade since fish stock depleted at a rapid pace due to use of illegal fishing gears in creeks that are breeding areas for fish and shrimp.
“This is why since 2006 no license under Deep-Sea Fishing Policy was issued by the government.” He said that due to use of fine nets, about 70 to 80 percent of the fish caught comprises of young fish and shrimp. A stock assignment carried out in the past revealed that around 70 percent of the marine resources have already been exhausted, Mahar observed.
He said the fisheries department is trying to have a one-window operation to facilitate all concerned stakeholders. The participants suggested the provincial fisheries department extended the two-month fishing ban by another month to conserve marine life including shrimps and fish.
A representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Pakistan, while speaking at the meeting, suggested proper placement of Turtle Exclusive Device (TED) on trawlers.
Responding to the suggestion, the PMSA representative said the security agency decided that no trawler without a proper TED will be allowed to sail into the sea after July 31, 2017.
Pakistan Customs Deputy Commissioner Dr Ali Raza said a ban on illegal fishing can only be effective if its implementation mechanism is followed through. He called for setting up a coordination committee to look into matters related to illegal fishing.
Matters related to confiscated boats, treatment plants and others were also discussed in the meeting. The PMSA representative said no new licenses have been issued for registration of new boats in order for the local boat industry to grow.