Fishermen in the Sonmiani Bay have successfully released a juvenile whale shark trapped in their fishing nets. A tuna gillnet operating along the Balochistan coast caught the 3.5 metre whale shark accidentally.
The captain of the vessel, Muhammad Ismail, a fisherman trained by WWF-Pakistan to release endangered animals trapped in nets, took great care to ensure the whale shark was freed. It took more than an hour to get this struggling animal free without harming it.
In the past local fishermen killed whale sharks for their liver oil which was smeared on the hull of fishing boats.
Whale sharks are occasionally reported from the area but the status of their population is not known in Pakistan. They can be seen along coastal offshore waters of the country which is their feeding, breeding and basking ground.
Mr. Rab Nawaz, Director WWF-Pakistan stressed the need for protection of this species in Pakistan because of their dwindling population. There is no known natural predator of this large fish but they often die by entanglement in fishing gear.
In order to protect the whale shark, WWF-Pakistan is lobbying for provincial wildlife departments of Sindh and Balochistan to include whale sharks in Appendix-I of the respective wildlife acts so that these gentle giants may be given the status of a protected animal.
In recent years WWF-Pakistan has involved all major stakeholders in creating awareness among fishermen to not kill or harm these and other endangered species. It is due to these efforts that rescue and release activities are being reported more frequently.