Monday, February 7, 2011

Pakistani Environmentalists Call For a Fishing Ban in River Dolphin Reserve Area

Indus River Dolphin

Pakistani environmentalists and experts had recently met to review deaths of Indus River dolphins during which they have called to impose a complete ban on fishing in the river's dolphin reserve area. The consensus was brought up at a WWF Pakistan meeting in Sukkur at the Indus River Dolphin Conservation Center to investigate the recent deaths of these rare mammals. Last month, five dead dolphins were found of which four were found at the village of Ali Wahan along river's banks near Rohri. Three of them were females. Two were buried, while three had undergone a postmortem by WWF Pakistan conservationists Muhammad Imran, Liaqat Ali Khokhar, cetacean expert Francois Xavier Pelletier, and even Sindh Wildlife Department employees. During the postmortem, samples were collected for poison testing. After a thorough analysis of circumstantial evidence, it was found that the cause of the dolphins' deaths was from either net entanglement or chemical poisoning. A report will be issued after samples taken from the dolphins are analyzed. According to Uzma Noureen, project coordinator for the Indus River Dolphin Conservation Project (IRDCP), once the samples are analyzed, an agenda against the use of such poisonous substance will be underway. She further added that a dolphin was rescued in the Nara Canal before the mortality cases were issued. District Officer Ghulam Mustafa Gopang of the Sindh Fisheries Department expressed his concern over the fishing system, and stated that it needed to be either replaced or improved. Taj Muhammad Sheikh, the wildlife department's deputy conservator, insisted to place a ban on fishing in the reserve area for dolphins. Finally, assistant engineer Abdul Sattar Saryo of the Irrigation Department stated that the department will provide any support to monitor barrage gates, canals, and wherever to find any distressed or stranded dolphins.

While I'm impressed to see that Pakistan is becoming aware regarding its river dolphin population status, I also feel that serious action should be taken. This rare dolphin's habitat has shrunk to one fifth of its historical range, and is gradually diminishing as a result of water shortage, uncontrolled use of agrochemicals around the river, and discharging of untreated wastewater effluents. It has also been found that it has become a victim of illegal netting and chemical poisoning that fishermen use to maximize their catch. This, along with its relatives the Ganges and Amazon River dolphins, are famous for being indicators of freshwater. That is, wherever they are found, other aquatic species of animals also live there. If these animals disappear, then so will other water-dwelling animals. This is why I firmly believe that serious measures should be taken, in order to revive their populations. One way would be to reach out and influence the public, in order to raise awareness regarding the dolphins' population status. Furthermore, educating people, especially fishermen, about the ecological importance of these creatures should be considered, as well. This way, the river dolphins will once again be able to swim different areas of their native rivers as their ancestors did generations back.

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