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Pakistan

Web Desk
October 17, 2018
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WWF-Pakistan stresses need for proactive measures to conserve critically endangered sawfishes

Pakistan

Web Desk
Wed, Oct, 18

Karachi, October 17: Due to multiple threats to the Sawfish species, they are on the brink of extinction. Joint efforts should be taken to conserve these magnificent marine animals. This was stated by WWF-Pakistan on occasion of International Sawfish Day observed on Wednesday. 

This day is celebrated to raise awareness about these critically endangered elasmobranches and highlights the threats facing them. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, some of the species of sawfish are classified as critically endangered while others are endangered.

 These species are also included in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix-I and are protected under Sindh and Balochistan Fisheries laws since 2016.

Three species of sawfish including knife-tooth (Anoxypristis cuspidatus), large-tooth (Pristis pristis) and large-comb (Pristis zijsron) have been reported from Pakistan. Once abundantly found, sawfish species are now facing threat of extinction in Pakistan. Therefore, WWF-Pakistan urges taking necessary steps for the conservation of these majestic marine animals.

Sawfish, which are related to sharks, have a unique long, narrow, flattened rostrum, or nose extension, lined with sharp transverse teeth, arranged in a way that resembles a saw. There have been at least five records of large-tooth sawfish (Pristis pristis) from Pakistan in the last decade. In May 2018, a 15-feet long giant female large-tooth sawfish was caught by a fisherman near Khajar Creek. Another specimen was caught from the same are a few years earlier in June 2013. Similarly, two specimens were caught in September 2009 and January 2016 from Sur, near Gwadar, Balochistan.


Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries), WWF-Pakistan said that these magnificent marine animals are on the brink of extinction globally, whereas two species knife-tooth and large-comb sawfishes are now considered to be locally extinct.

 There was once a considerably large sawfish fishery in Pakistan and they were mainly found in Miani Hor (Sonmiani), Kalmat Khor, Jiwani, Gwadar and along the entire Indus Delta, particularly Khajar Creek. Khan also pointed out that the sawfish population is declining rapidly throughout the world because of overfishing, entanglement in nets, fishing gear, habitat loss, and curio trade. ‘They also are also in demand for Chinese sharkfin soup’, he added.

According to Saeed-ul-Islam, Coordinator Marine Programme, WWF-Pakistan some sawfish may still be left in their main habitats such as Indus creeks (Khajar Creek), Gwadar and Miani Hor. WWF-Pakistan, therefore, intends to conduct environmental DNA (eDNA) studies in these areas to confirm their presence. 

According to Islam, eDNA is the DNA an organism leaves behind as it moves through an environment which can be detected using modern techniques to confirm their presence. Once confirmed an area specific management plan will be developed for conservation of sawfish.

In addition to fishing, habitat degradation is also an important factor that has resulted in the decline or possible local extinction of sawfish as local power plants and other industries are continuously being built in areas, such as Gwadar, where sawfishes were previously found. 

A national or regional conservation action plan for the prevention of intentional killing, protection of habitat, minimization of bycatch, and ending illegal fin and rostrum trading must be developed. Since 2016, the governments of Sindh and Balochistan have already included sawfish in the list of species that cannot be fished, landed and marketed. 

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