Photo WWF Pakistan
Photo WWF Pakistan
Iqrar Mohammad captains a fishing boat targeting tuna, who has been trained by WWF how to safely release bycatch.

Fostering sustainable fishing in Pakistan

Added to Stories from the Field on 27 September 2017
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Iqrar Mohammad is a 39-year-old Pakistani fishermen who recognises that responsible practices are the way to a sustainable fishery. He is aware that appropriate behaviour by him and his crew today is the surest path to ensuring that their occupation will still exist tomorrow.

 Sharks and rays are caught as bycatch and are not targeted. However, with 500 gillnet vessels targeting tuna, bycatch of sharks and rays occurs, threatening endangered and protected species such as thresher, silky and whale sharks among others, especially as shark meat can fetch a higher price than the intended tuna.

Thus is the dilemma for fishermen such as Iqrar, who has received training on safely releasing bycatch and proper data collection from WWF, an important step in bridging information gaps in gillnet/driftnet fisheries. “If you consider it a livelihood, it has to be sustainable, it must be maintained for future generations,” says Iqrar.

Fisheries are also challenged by a lack of reporting on catches. While some fishermen are part of the problem, those like Iqrar are helping to change age-old practices by cooperating with WWF. Since 2012, Iqrar has provided data to WWF on his catches including locations and species composition. More importantly he is a trendsetter, the first to take the initiative to release endangered bycatch entangled in his nets (see video). Since 2012 Iqrar has released 18 whale sharks as well as manta rays, guitarfish, sunfish, dolphins and countless sea turtles.

 

Fostering sustainable fishing in Pakistan
Pakistan fisherman Iqrar Muhammad (center) is commended for his conservation efforts to return bycatch to the sea.

His behaviour is being noted. “We understand that ensuring livelihoods for the future is much more important than satisfying our own greed,” said a young crew member working for Iqrar, who summed up how he felt when he released a large whale shark after a long struggle to free it: “It was a moment of pure bliss, it was as if I had found peace within me.”

About the contributor
Umair Shahid is a development professional with a Masters in Marine Zoology. He has been affiliated with WWF-Pakistan for more than nine years. Currently, he is employed as an Assistant Manager for Marine Conservation work. Umair has led several initiatives on improved management of fisheries in the Indian Ocean, assisting with knowledge exchanges, regional collaboration matters and policy and advocacy campaigns. He also served as an official delegation member of Pakistan at the CBD-COP13.

 

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