Rare largetooth sawfish caught and sold by fisherman

Karachi:A very rare 10-foot-long dead largetooth sawfish was caught by a fisherman on Sunday near Surbandar, Gwadar and was sold for Rs26,000 to traders, WWF-Pakistan said in a statement issued on Monday.The fish was caught by a local fisherman Ibrahim and weighed around 96 kilogrammes, said WWF officials.Sawfish is one of the rarest groups of marine animals whose population in the world is under extreme threat of extinction. Three species of sawfish — Knifetooth, Largetooth and Largecomb — have been occasionally found in Pakistan.However, due to overfishing and habitat degradation, the sawfish population has decreased substantially in Pakistan and the fish is now considered to be locally extinct.

There have only been three authentic records of their occurrence in Pakistan during the past 10 years.The sawfish are characterized by a long, narrow, flattened rostrum or a nose extension, lined with sharp transverse teeth resembling a saw which give it its name, said WWF officials. There used to be a large sawfish fishery in Pakistan before 1970, but by the 1980s the fish population had collapsed considerably due to the high mortality rate in fishing gears.A worker of the WWF-Pakistan, Abdul Rahim, who visited the location where the sawfish was found, said sawfish are extremely rare along the Balochistan coast and their population has declined in the past 30 years.

He said the sawfish used to be found commonly along the coast of Pakistan, but after the introduction of motorized fishing vessels and nylon net, their population started to dwindle and now the fish was almost extinct.According to Muhammad Moazzam Khan, technical adviser at WWF-Pakistan for marine fisheries, the main areas where the sawfish used to be found were Sonmiani, Kalmat Khor, Jiwani, Gwadar and the coastline along the Indus Delta, especially Khajar Creek.He said dried and salted sawfish meat used to be exported to Sri Lanka while its fins used to be exported to Hong Kong. Sawfish have a long life because they grow slowly and attain maturity later than other species of fish. Moreover they also have low fecundity, making them extremely vulnerable to any changes that may alter their habitats. Sawfish rostrums (saws) can easily become entangled in nets and other fishing gear, making them vulnerable targets for overfishing.

The WWF-Pakistan has initiated a program to record any authentic record of the occurrence of endangered sawfish in Pakistan. On September 11, 2009, a 1.4-metre-long Largetooth Sawfish landed at the Gwader Fish Harbour. Then in June 2013, a large specimen of sawfish was caught at Khajr Creek, near the mouth of River Indus. Another Largetooth Sawfish landed at the Karachi Fish Harbour on 11 May, 2015.The latest and the fourth occurrence has been lasts Sunday in Surbandar, Balochistan.

The Largetooth species used to be the most prevalent species of sawfish in Pakistan, and used to inhabits coastal waters while at times also ascending to the rivers. In 1962, a large specimen of sawfish was caught in Hyderabad near the Ghulam Muhammad Barrage in Kotri, about 170 kilometres from the coastline. Due to the sharp decline in sawfish populations worldwide, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared all sawfish species to be “Critically Endangered”.

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