Time to pay heed to marine life conservation

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It is very unfortunate that most of the World Days regarding highlighting the wildlife and livestock passed silently in our country, with our people paying very little heed to the issues of endangered species and the degradation of animals’ habitat, threats to marine life due to air, water and plastic pollutions. The World Sea Turtle Day observed on June 15 is a case in point.

However, there are some organizations who are focused on working for the cause of wildlife.

Thanks to the untiring efforts of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) which like every year, highlighted the issue of endangered species with special emphasis on sea turtles which it said are exposed to serious anthropogenic threats including the shing gears and fishing nets in which they are entangled and are on the verge of extinction.

Though they have been exposed to various threats since 2000, but in recent years, the danger has multiplied with the construction of huts at Karachi and Balochsitan beaches which has also severely impacted the nursing grounds for sea turtles as when these huts collapse, their waste along with plastic and polythene bags pose a serious threat to juvenile turtles populations.

Our main local beaches both in Sindh and Balochistan where people throng most of the time like Hawke’s Bay, Sandspit, and Cape Monz along the Sindh coast,  Taq (Ormara), Astola Island and Daran are littered with plastic and rubber waste which along with the air pollution are taking on the lives of sea turtle populations . To protect the endangered turtle population, the WWF has also ensured various steps including providing training to hundreds of “skippers and crew members” on how to save these turtle species by safely releasing the entangled sea turtles.

They have also taught them the techniques of developing a modification in the operation of the fish-nets as these nets also pose a danger to turtle population as they are entangled in them and are exposed to serious threat.

These steps have helped to control the situation to certain extent but still there is long way to conserve the habitat along sea shores of Karachi and Balochistan so that the endangered species breeding grounds and nesting places can be saved.

It is not that the provincial governments and departments are ignoring the issue, the real problem is with the mindset of our people, who have developed a habit of littering every picnic spot and sea shores which serve as natural habitats for birds and wildlife with plastic waste, industrial waste and chemical spills into rivers, sea and on the shores, posing danger to lives of various precious species which are on the verge of extinction.

It may be mentioned here that in recent years, the Sindh and Balochistan wildlife departments have taken some laudable measures like they declared the Astola Island as a marine protected area which have borne fruit but there is further need for such steps and more awareness programmes must be initiated by both the government and non-governmental organizations working in the field of wildlife protections.

The government alone cannot control this menace, only collaborative efforts between the government, the NGOs and the society can help save the sea shores from air and plastic and rubber pollutions which are destructing their nesting and breeding grounds.

We know that these dying turtles are unique and precious animals which are in existence for over 100 million years but due to our negligent behavior they are exposed to extreme threats.

If urgent steps were not taken the breeding sites of these unique turtles, which have already registered up to thirty per cent decrease during the last ten years, will further vanish in a matter of decades. Already we are witness to incidents of hundreds of sea creatures including fish being washed away along Karachi beach in the past, but despite this alarming situation, the policy to safe them has not improved.

Most of the times it is fishermen who make hue and cry over such incidents as they depend on these fish for livelihood but the rest of sea creatures like the turtles go unnoticed most of time.

The concerned citizens and the wildlife protections organizations also make hue and cry over what they call the maritime movement of ships to the Karachi shore and the sea port, and dangerous untreated industrial waste and diesel flow into the sea waters as major pollutants of sea shores.

There are number of incidents when turtles and fish including the sharks have been reported entangled in plastic bags in off shore waters. Such incidents are becoming a routine affair now as they are occurring with frequency and the main factor behind it is the plastic pollution caused by the polythene bags.

It is high time that the federal, Sindh governments as also the Karachi municipal corporation (KMC) must initiate action against factories for disposal of untreated waste into sea waters, which is becoming a existential threat to marine life.