KARACHI: In a recent incident, while operating a tuna boat along the Balochistan coast, skipper Mahar Gul was surprised to find a spot-tail shark (Carcharhinus sorrah) entangled in a polythene bag about 160 nautical miles south of Astola Island, Daily Times learnt on Saturday. The condition of laceration and associated inflammation indicated that the shark became entangled in the bag, which caused its slow mortality. The spot-tail shark was found in offshore waters and its entanglement showed that plastic pollution was adversely affecting the marine life. In another such incident, World Wildlife-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan)-trained fisherman Noor Muhammad reported that plastic strapping had encircled a giant catfish (Netuma thallasinus) near its head. The plastic strapping was observed to have penetrated the flesh of the fish that caused severe laceration and inflammation and finally caused the mortality of the catfish. The fist was caught 135 nautical miles southwest of Karachi on October1. The fisherman took photographs of the animal and further reported increasing plastic pollution in the offshore waters of Pakistan. Plastic pollution is posing a serious threat to marine life and its ecosystem. The issue of plastic pollution along Pakistan’s coast is a major concern and is worsening due to an inadequate solid waste disposal system in the city. Most plastics that enter the sea become a serious threat to marine life due to their non-degradable nature. Studies carried out by the WWF-Pakistan indicate that the number of incidents of marine animals trapped in plastic products in the sea is very increasing. It is estimated that about 8 million tonnes of plastics are deliberately dumped in the sea globally or finds its way there through wind or flow of rivers and urban runoff. This is approximately equivalent to the dumping of a garbage truck into marine waters every minute. According to the statement submitted to Supreme Court’s Commission on Enquiry by Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro, about 12,000 tonnes of garbage is generated per day in Karachi of which only 40 percent is collected and taken to dumpsites whereas the remaining garbage mainly reaches different nullahs or burnt locally. Commenting on the issue, WWF-Pakistan technical adviser (Marine Fisheris) Muhammad Moazzam Khan, said: “Only a small fraction of garbage is burnt, which has its own environmental consequences but garbage that reaches the ocean consists mainly of non-degradable plastics. He pointed that the entanglement of the giant catfish and spot-tail shark in strapping plastic and in a polythene bag respectively were important evidences that illustrate how plastic pollution was rapidly destroying marine habitats. WWF-Pakistan studies also reveal that 65 percent of garbage that litter beaches along Pakistan’s coast consist of plastics, which includes mineral water bottles, caps, polythene bags, balloons, wrappers, shoes, broken utensils and discarded fishing nets. “These plastics are not degradable and thus devastate life in offshore waters. A number of records are available which also indicate that a variety of marine animals became entangled in floating plastics leading to injury and sometimes death,” Khan pointed out. According to Dr Babar Khan, WWF-Pakistan regional head (Sindh and Balochistan), plastic waste decomposes very slowly; therefore, it either floats in the open sea or piles up on beaches. Pakistan is no exception to this, as improper dumping of city garbage at unauthorised locations, such as along the shores of Ibrahim Hyderi, Karachi, has resulted in an unprecedented increase in plastic pollution. He pointed that not only the beaches of Karachi but others such as Kund Malir and Gwadar were also littered with plastic pollution. WWF-Pakistan Senior Director Programmes Rab Nawaz urged the local administration to properly remove garbage from the city to rein in unauthorised dumping of litter at Ibrahim Hyderi and other parts of the coast. He stressed the need to create awareness among the general public about limiting their use of plastic in daily chores and called for the use of recyclable material. ‘Accumulation of plastic in the ecosystem, especially along the coast and in offshore waters, poses a serious threat to marine biodiversity, hence urgent steps are needed to address this growing issue,” he added. Published in Daily Times, October 15th 2017.