Environmentalists and experts at a meeting to review recent deaths of blind Indus dolphins have called for a complete ban on fishing in the dolphin reserve area of the River Indus.
This consensus was emerged at a meeting of the WWFñPakistan in Sukkur at its Indus River Dolphin Conservation Centre to investigate the recent dolphin deaths.
Representatives from the Sindh Wildlife Department, Fisheries Department, Irrigation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency were present at this meeting.
Five dead dolphins were found late last month, of which four were found at Ali Wahan, a small village on the banks of the River Indus near Rohri. Three of these were female.
Two dolphins were buried. Postmortem was conducted on three dead dolphins by the WWFñPakistan conservationists — Muhammad Imran, Liaqat Ali Khokhar and French Cetacean expert Francois Xavier Pelletier.
Sindh Wildlife Department employees were also involved in the postmortem, which was done to collect samples for poison testing.
After a detailed analysis of the circumstantial evidence, the cause of death of these dolphins had been deduced as either net entanglement or chemical poisoning.
A pertinent report will be issued after the samples taken from the dolphins are analysed.
The habitat of the Indus River Dolphin has been reduced to one fifth of its historical range and is degraded primarily due to a shortage of water, uncontrolled use of agrochemicals in farming around the river and discharge of untreated industrial wastewater effluents in the river.
It was observed that increased number of fishermen in the area has put a tremendous stress on fishing resources. Since dolphin is a mammal and is not consumed, it has become a victim of illegal netting and chemical poisoning that fishermen use to maximise their fish catch.
Speaking at the meeting, Uzma Noureen, Project Coordinator of IRDCP, said that dolphin samples will be analysed to find out if they were indeed poisoned.
Once this is ascertained, a specific agenda against the use such poisonous substance for fishing will be pursued. She also stated that a dolphin was saved in Nara canal on the left bank of the river before the mortality cases surfaced.
Ghulam Mustafa Gopang, District Officer of the Sindh Fisheries Department, expressed concern over the fishing card system and stated that it needed to be replaced or improved.
Taj Muhammad Sheikh, Deputy Conservator of the Sindh Wildlife Department, insisted that fishing should be banned in the dolphin reserve area.
Abdul Sattar Saryo, Assistant Engineer in the Irrigation Department, said his department will provide any support needed to monitor barrage gates and canals wherever possible to find any stranded or distressed dolphins.