Experts call for concerted efforts to protect flagship marine species
Collaborative efforts are immediately required to protect marine megafauna which are facing multiple threats. These animals considered as flagship species indicate the health of marine ecosystem.
This was stated by experts during a consultative workshop organised by the WWF-Pakistan under its Sustainable Fisheries Entrepreneurship project supported by Engro Foundation at a local hotel in Karachi. The event aimed at addressing the key challenges to the survival of these species in Pakistani waters, stated a press release issued.
WWF-Pakistan Director Conservation Dr Babar Khan appreciated the support of different stakeholders in the conservation of flagship marine animals. He shared that WWF-Pakistan has been working to improve the existing fishing practices and is taking efforts to minimise fishing induced mortalities of the Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species, including marine dolphins, whales, sharks and turtles, among others. He emphasised on the need to provide better livelihood opportunities to the local fishers who are playing an instrumental role in the protection of marine megafauna.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor, Marine Programme, WWF-Pakistan, provided details about the distribution and abundance of marine flagship species in Pakistani waters. He informed that to improve the data about marine mammals (whales and dolphins), sharks, marine birds and other important species, WWF-Pakistan initiated a programme that helped gather information about them. In order to reduce mortality and entanglement of these animals in fishing gears, WWF-Pakistan introduced subsurface gillnetting which is now fully adopted by the fishermen. This initiative is being acclaimed globally as it has led to conservation of many marine animals mainly turtles, dolphins and whale sharks. Khan also shed light on various management measures which have been taken for conservation of ETP species.
Meanwhile, Samar Hussain Khan, Deputy Conservator Wildlife/National CITES Focal Point, Ministry of Climate Change, said that most of the marine turtles are migratory and face various threats while travelling through different oceans. To conserve these species, he called for coordinated efforts at international, regional and national level. He also informed that to address conservation challenges to marine cetaceans, there are several Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and Pakistan is a signatory to almost all of them.
To highlight the role of the marine cetaceans in supporting eco-tourism based livelihood opportunities, Master Abdul Rasheed from Sonmiani Development Organization talked about dolphin watch programme. This programme, he added, has manifold benefits as it helps generate income for locals and also enhances awareness about the ecological significance and role of these animals.
To address key threats to the marine megafauna in Pakistan, participants of the workshop developed a conservation framework with recommendations. Other speakers of the workshop included officials from provincial and federal fisheries departments, academia and relevant government organisations.
The workshop was organised as part of the project implemented by WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with Engro Foundation in the selected priority coastal areas of Karachi, Sindh. The project promotes improved fisheries management by reforming fisheries governance that helps combat illegal fishing and reduce pressure on marine ecosystems.