Rare swordfish caught, sold
Karachi: A seven-foot-long swordfish (Xiphias gladius) was recently caught in the Miani Hor Lagoon located between Damb and Bera areas of Lasbela district of Balochistan.
The fish weighing around 56kg was sold for Rs8,800 in a local market in Karachi.
“It was caught by Moula Baksh, a sports fisherman, from Karachi. It is unusual to have this species in the lagoon since swordfish is a rare oceanic species inhabiting deep waters,” said Abdul Qayyum representing the Coastal Association of Research and Development, a non-governmental organisation based in Damb where he also works in the capacity of a World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) volunteer.
There was no previous record of this fish from this area, he added.
According to WWF-P, swordfish is part of the billfish group which is represented by six species in Pakistan including marlin and sailfish. Billfish, a predatory fish, is characterised by prominent bills, or rostra, and due to its large size is called ‘ghora’ in local parlance.
“Swordfish is referred to as Somali ghora since Pakistani boats operating in the Central Indian Ocean and waters off Yemen and Somalia occasionally catch swordfish. Its presence in Pakistani waters is rare, though,” said WWF-P technical advisor on marine fisheries Mohammad Moazzam Khan.
The annual world production of billfish was around 120,000 mt while its yearly catch in Pakistan stood around 8,000 mt, he said, while pointing out that swordfish was hardly represented in the [Pakistani] catch.
“A delicacy which fetches a good price in the international market, swordfish is the ultimate aim of sports fishermen. Its occurrence in Miani Hor Lagoon is very unusual as this fast-moving fish seems to have been disoriented and eventually moved into the lagoon, which is known for its fast water currents.”
According to Khan, 32,000 mt of swordfish are annually caught in the Indian Ocean and stocks are considered to be healthy as the species is not subjected to over-fishing. “It is mainly caught in the central and southern Indian Ocean through longline fishing gears. Juveniles are rarely caught in the offshore waters of Pakistan.”
The WWF-P had been collecting information about billfishes from the coastal and off-shore waters of Pakistan for the past five years. Only six specimens of swordfish caught from the outer margins of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) had been reported but the fish was never reported from the Pakistani sea limits, inside creeks or lagoons, he explained.
Coordinator WWF-P Umair Shahid said: “Occurrence of a rare oceanic fish in the lagoon area is unbelievable. Oceanic fish are extremely sensitive to temperature change and this erratic incidence may be attributed to climate change.”
Leading angler Aziz Agha also termed the incidence unusual. “Despite being an extremely valued game fish which most recreational fishermen in Pakistan dream of catching, swordfish has never been caught [by anglers] here,” he said.