KARACHI - The federal government is playing a proactive role to save marine life, especially fisheries, in coordination with Sindh and Balochistan governments in the light of a survey conducted by the World Food and Agriculture Organisation on threats to marine life in Pakistan.

The federal government had hired the services of FAO experts in 2008 for a comprehensive study; sensing that there were many threats to the marine life caused by different actors. This task was completed by FAO in 2015 at the cost of $5.8 million, said Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Hasil Khan Bizenjo at a press conference here at Karachi Port Trust (KPT) Head Office on Tuesday.

Before this media session, the minister was presiding over a meeting of stakeholders of fisheries, including officers from the fisheries departments of federal, Sindh and Balochistan governments.

Director General of Ports and Shipping Asad Rafiq Chandna, Director General of Federal Fisheries Department Muhammad Wasim Khan, Director of Sindh Fisheries Department Muhammad Aslam Ansari and Director of Balochistan Fisheries Department Qazi Muhammad Akbar were also present.

The minister said the FAO report had identified the use of banned nets -- bullo and gujo -- as the major threat to the fisheries sector of Pakistan. These internationally restricted thick nets were being freely used by trawlers and large boats. They had played havoc with the fisheries as they even sweep away fish seed from hatcheries. This results in waste of fish as the seed they bring to the shore is of no use. Consequently, this seed is sold to units which produce poultry feed.

He revealed that the report had suggested that if fishing continues in Pakistan's seawaters in the same manner, the fishing sector would be destroyed with a little chance to recover. "We don't want this report to become just a decoration piece in official cupboards," he remarked, adding that the Ministry of Ports and Shipping had pursued the Sindh and Balochistan governments on this very important issue. After 18th Amendment, he said, these two provincial governments were the main players to save the fisheries within their limits. 

After the above amendment, up to 20 nautical miles area of the sea came under the control of Sindh and Balochistan governments, and the main fishing was being done within this belt.

Sindh and Balochistan governments would have to take special steps to save marine life, especially the fisheries sector.

During the breeding season, he said, “We would have to impose a complete ban on fishing,” he said.

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Pakistan could earn a big amount of foreign exchange from fishing besides providing jobs to a large population, he said.

The minister said the federal government was playing its best possible role to save fisheries and other marine life within Pakistan's territory.