In the world and Pakistan, the shark and ray population has registered an alarming decline over the past 50 years. Globally, shark population has fallen by 71%, while in Pakistan, in the same period the percentage of decline in shark landings is as high as 85%; and during this time, ray landings have dropped by 75%. This abnormally high decrease in the number of the marine species might cause severe harm to marine ecosystem, shark population, overall environment, biodiversity and would likely result in less availability of seafood. The world’s 20 leading scientists, after long research and processing data from different parts of the globe, have come to the conclusion that the significant reduction in the population of the marine species is mainly due to overfishing for the consumption of their meat and commercial uses of their fins and skin. About 100 million sharks are trapped from all the oceans every year. The scientists, after examining 31 species of ray and sharks, have discovered that of these sea animals, 21 of them are now threatened species.
In Pakistan, till the recent past there were many shark fisheries but over the years, they have been disappearing fast and this led to a crisis situation in the 1990s. Important shark-fishing centres at Ormara and Jiwani were shut down in 2004. The WWF-Pakistan attributes this to the introduction of more sophisticated techniques employed to increase the shark catch. A significant number of shark species in the Indian Ocean have become endangered due to their overexploitation, and plans to protect and increase their population is hampered by the lack of reliable data. The Sindh and Balochistan governments have enacted legislations to protect sharks and other endangered sea species. However, more steps in this regard are needed like declaring shark hotspots protected areas, prohibiting trapping of the endangered species, research to devise means to protect all threatened species of marine life and curbing the export and import of shark fins.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2021.