KARACHI: A fisherman captain Mehar Gul, while fishing for tuna about 17 km south of Gwadar, Balochistan safely rescued four feet long Indo-Pacific finless porpoise, locally called Tabi, caught in gillnet on Friday, 11 August. According to Mehar Gul, he observed the entangled species struggling for life and immediately asked his crewmen to stop fishing operation. Having its tail caught in the fishing net, the porpoise could not come to surface to breathe. After struggling for 30 minutes, the crewmen lifted it with support of net haulers and released it back to the sea. This was the first successful release of an Indo-Pacific porpoise in Pakistan.
Indo-Pacific finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) is found in shallow waters along the coastline, in lagoons such as Miani Hor and Kalmat Khor and also in the estuarine area in the lower reaches of the Indus River. Porpoises are cetaceans like dolphins and whales but can be distinguished based on their smaller snout and spade-shaped teeth. As name indicates, porpoise species from Pakistan lack dorsal fin, whereas all dolphins have prominent hooked or curved dorsal fin.
According to WWF-Pakistan, nowadays fishermen do not kill porpoises but in the past their meat was used as a bait to catch sharks in longline fishing gears. After the longline fisheries decreased in the late 1990s, practice of killing porpoises also stopped. So, it is ironic that porpoise population has substantially declined in Pakistan, as well as in other range countries. It is now considered vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.
Published in Daily Times, August 13th 2017.