Karachi trawlers operate with impunity off Gwadar coast

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ISLAMABAD: Illegal and unregulated fishing by Karachi-based trawlers and by the occasional foreign vessels have crippled Gwadar’s already fragile economy and depleted fish stocks in Balochistan, a senior official of the provincial government said.

These vessels are operating with impunity off Balochistan’s coast, the official said.

Fishing trawlers of Sindh are also threatening the livelihoods of thousands of small fishermen living across the entire Makran coast, he said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the Balochistan government had repeatedly asked the Sindh government to take stringent measures to end the exploitation of Gwadar fishermen but its pleas have gone unheeded.

Gwadar lawmaker Sayed Essa Nori said that he had protested against this unfair practice in the National Assembly and elsewhere but the authorities concerned have ignored the issue. The matter was also discussed in the Balochistan Assembly, but it still remained unresolved, he said.

Spokesman for the provincial government Anwarul Haq Kakar said that Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Khan Zehri had discussed the issue with the Sindh government several times. Kakar expressed the hope that Balochistan government’s persistent efforts would soon yield positive results. The spokesman said that the provincial government would never compromise the economic rights of the province.

Meanwhile, a former secretary of the fisheries department, Salam Baloch, backed Gwadar’s fishermen over their grievances, noting that illegal fishing was continuing unabated. Salam Baloch said that over the past several years, local fishermen had suffered colossal losses because of illegal fishing.

Sindh government, he said, consistently ignored complaints lodged by the Balochistan government.

However, he said, the provincial government will continue to press the Sindh government against this illegal poaching of resources.

Despite large-scale illegal fishing, Gwadar fishermen set a new fish production record in the province after their annual catch exceeded 250,000 tons of high-quality fish during last year.

Potential annual fishing yield in Balochistan waters may exceed 300,000 tons every year, he claimed.

According to the same official, the sustainable volume of fish catch in waters off Balochistan’s coast is estimated to be more than 500,000 tons.

However, this estimate is not reliable as it is based on data compiled during a survey conducted nearly 25 years ago.

He alleged that most of the catch is commandeered by Karachi-based vessels.

According to him, the poachers are also taking away fish from their breeding grounds off Balochistan’s coastal belt.

Karachi-based trawlers are also using forbidden nets, he said.

According to him, just 15 to 20 per cent of the entire catch was consumed locally while 80 per cent of fish was exported.

These trawlers, said to be owned by influential businessmen, entered Balochistan’s waters without any check by Pakistan Coast Guards and other law-enforcement departments.

He expressed the hope that the local fishermen might benefit after the Gwadar Port becomes operational next year.

Foreign fishing vessels also encroach upon fishing in Balochistan waters, he said, adding that most of these ships were licenced by the federal government for fishing off Karachi coast only.

According to official data, more than 9,000 fishermen in Balochistan are engaged in the fishing business but none of them own a fish trawler. “They use small-sized fishing boats.”

There are more than 30 fish-rich areas in Balochistan waters, including off Makran, Pasni and Jiwani coasts.