HomePakistanIn Pakistan, a change in fishing methods saves thousands of dolphins

In Pakistan, a change in fishing methods saves thousands of dolphins

Karachi, Pakistan

In 2013, at least 12,000 dolphins died in Pakistani territorial waters in the Arabian Sea, trapped in huge nets thrown by fishermen.

These gillnets, known locally as “bither”, were famous for their high level of bycatch.

Pakistan’s territorial waters are home to 25 types of dolphins, particularly spinner, bottlenose and tropical dolphins, and these endangered creatures were falling prey to the nets in massive numbers.

However, in just five years, the number of dolphins killed had dropped exponentially to just 186.

Behind that drastic reduction was a small but crucial change from that conventional fishing method: underground gillnets instead of surface nets.

As part of a pioneering project launched in 2012, more than 700 local fishermen were trained to use the other type of nets, and the results of the change become evident over time, Mohammad Moazzam Khan, technical advisor of WWF-Pakistan, told Anadolu. .

Since 2018, according to Khan, who led the project, dolphin deaths due to entanglements have become “extremely rare, if not non-existent.”

“There were no estimates or previous studies. These fishing nets were believed to kill dolphins, but counts were not done until 2012,” she said.

However, despite the huge difference with the change in fishing methods, dolphins are still considered an endangered species, with around 100,000 individuals killed each year in the Indian Ocean alone, Khan added.

More catches, less bycatch

The underground net, known locally as a “linden,” is placed 2 meters (6.5 feet) underwater, unlike the traditional gillnet, a popular fishing method used to catch tuna and similar fish, especially in small-scale fisheries in coastal states. of the Indian Ocean.

They are also relatively simple, with much less chance of waste and a faster process overall.

“The use of underground networks turned out to be a great success,” Khan said.

“Not only did it reduce entanglement of dolphins and other non-target species, but it also substantially increased the catch of target species, including yellowfin and skipjack tuna.”

According to a report by WWF-Pakistan, bycatch in traditional nets mainly included cetaceans, creatures belonging to the whale or dolphin family, and sea turtles.

Before the change, an estimated number of more than 12,000 cetaceans and 29,000 sea turtles were often entangled in gillnets annually, according to the report.

Underground nets have reduced the capture of some species with high monetary value such as billfish and dorado. However, fishermen say they can make up for the loss through increased catches of target species such as yellowfin, yellowfin and skipjack.

“Apart from increased tuna catch, saving time is another crucial benefit,” Agha Mohammad Iqrar, a fisherman from the southern port city of Karachi, told Anadolu.

Iqrar, who started using underground nets six years ago, said he only needs to add an extra piece of rope to convert the traditional gill net into an underground net, which costs him just 5,000 Pakistani rupees ($16).

“We used to spend a lot of time releasing non-target catches, mostly dolphins, which would also damage our nets,” he said.

“I haven’t seen a tangled dolphin lately,” added Iqrar, who just returned from a week-long fishing trip.

Today, thanks to the new method, cetaceans are trapped in the net and their chances of survival are much greater, he said.

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