Posted on 08 June 2020
Karachi, 8 June
: ‘Oceans are home to a wondrous array of wild species from tiny plankton to the biggest creature that has ever existed, the blue whale. Some scientists believe that there are more than a million species in the seas, though human activity is driving some to extinction before we have had a chance to study them.’ This was stated by WWF-Pakistan on World Oceans Day 2020. The statement by WWF said that oceans cover about 70 per cent of Earth’s surface, supplying half the oxygen we breathe and providing food and livelihoods to thousands of people across the world. This year there is a focus on calling for world leaders to protect 30 per cent of oceans by 2030, to combat the climate crisis and protect marine biodiversity.
Commenting on the day, Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General, WWF-Pakistan, said that Pakistan is blessed with marine waters which support livelihood of thousands of fishers and are home to diverse marine life. The Arabian Sea is home to various species of sharks, whales, dolphins, turtles, rays, fish and diverse plant life including mangroves. He also shared that rich marine resources are currently facing multiple threats including plastic pollution, disposal of untreated sewage, use of harmful fishing nets, overfishing and rise in temperatures. He shared that as the Arabian Sea harbours unique marine life, we should make concerted efforts to create more marine protected areas (MPA) and develop their management plans. He emphasized that to safeguard the rich marine life of Pakistan; Churna Island should be declared the second MPA, a status which would protect this natural treasure for generations to come. ‘Without a conscious effort to actively protect the health of our oceans, these places of natural wonder will become more and more rare,’ he added.
To educate the public about the rich biodiversity of Pakistan, a short video clip showing underwater life in Churna Island was released. This recent footage of the island developed by Nyal Mueenuddin, WWF-Pakistan filmmaker, showcased the rich biodiversity of the area which included different types of corals and a number of fish species such as the Indo-pacific sergeant, silver moony, neon fish, sweeper and two species of jellyfish. Located at around six kilometers from Mubarak village in Karachi, Churna Island is a perfect patch of rocks which gives the look of an Egyptian pyramid from some distance. Being a transboundary island between Sindh and Balochistan, it is a popular destination for tourists and is one of the few places where a variety of corals has been found.
Recently a video which showed a fisherman swimming with whale shark was also said to be recorded from Chura Island. Experts are of the view that with a stunning topography, Churna is home to rich marine flora and fauna, which includes different types of corals, ornamental fishes, dolphins, baleen whales, sunfishes, whale sharks, sea birds and other tremendous diversity of plants. The video shows that the coral habitat is one of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems, which supports a range of fish and other marine species. With its rich biodiversity, Churna Island is the ideal candidate to be designated a Marine Protected Area (MPA) after Astola Island. Through this effort, Pakistan will achieve compliance to Aichi Target 11, which requires that by 2020 at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas of a country are conserved.
Despite the vastness of oceans, human activity is devastating ocean ecosystems. Illegal fishing and overfishing are wiping out whole populations of some fish and plant species on which humans depend for their living and livelihoods. The noise from human activities is also causing problems for ocean wildlife. It can disturb the fish and stop them communicating and breeding. Effects of human activity are felt in remote parts of the high seas in oceans. Every year almost nine million tons of plastic enters the ocean globally that harms to marine life. According to an estimate, the Indus River contributes 164,332 tons of plastic waste to the Arabian Sea annually.
To conserve the rich biodiversity, critical marine habitats and enjoy the beauty of the Arabian Sea, WWF-Pakistan urges policymakers to declare more MPAs where no fishing is allowed. These safe spaces will mean that there are always places for fish to grow and reproduce. This will not only improve livelihoods of local fishers but also help restore ocean ecosystems naturally.