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Entangled baby whale shark rescued

Entangled baby whale shark rescued

KARACHI: A juvenile whale shark was rescued and released back into the sea on Thursday after it got entangled in a fishing net about two kilometres north of Churna Island in Balochistan.

The shark was about 7.5 feet long. The species is protected under Sindh and Balochistan laws.

“The baby shark was entangled in the net laid for catching tuna. Initially, the crew members tried to disentangle it inside the water but they couldn’t do so. They had to pull it up on the board and then they released it into the sea,” said Mohammad Moazzam Khan of the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P), quoting the rescue boat captain, Ali Akbar.

To the utter surprise and jubilation of fishermen, the juvenile shark came to life and encircled the boat before disappearing in the deep sea, he added.

According to him, there have been 61 cases of whale sharks being rescued since the start of the WWF-P Obs­er­ver Programme in 2012.

“However, their pups seldom survive in these conditions or die during the rescue process,” he pointed out.

On threats to the whale shark population, he said they were extremely prone to frequent entanglement in fishing gears, habitat degradation and marine pollution.

He said there used to be special fisheries for whale sharks only for a long time but the trend died down in the 1970s. “Some fishermen kill them for their liver oil that they use to polish their boats to keep them smooth and free of fouling animals,” he said.

It is noteworthy that Churna Island, a small uninhabited island located at the boundary between Sindh and Balochistan provinces, is an important basking, feeding and breeding area for the species.

Two neonate whale sharks reported from the Balochis­tan coast in 2008 indicate that the area is the breeding place for whale sharks.

The island is currently under government consideration for the status of a marine protected area.

The species is listed as endangered in the Inter­national Union for Conser­vation of Nature Red database and included in Appendix-II of the Conven­tion on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The name ‘whale shark’ directly refers to the fish’s size, being as large as some species of whales and also that it is a filter feeder like baleen whales.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2017

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