Illegal Fishing Imperils Aqua Life

left tarbela dam presents a mesmerising look on a sunny day right a man shows off his massive fish haul photo express

(Left) Tarbela Dam presents a mesmerising look on a sunny day; (right) a man shows off his massive fish haul.

Fishermen continue to use illegal fishing techniques, including employing dangerous explosives to catch fish in Tarbela Lake, endangering precious aquatic life besides pushing rare fish species to the brink of extinction.

This not only raises a big question mark on the performance of the law enforcement agencies for failing to stop the blatant violation of the law but also points a finger at the complete failure on the part of the local administration in preventing such illegal and environment-damaging practices.

These illegal fishing practices are also causing huge losses to the national exchequer. Illegal fishing has become an industry that requires immediate attention from the higher authorities to prevent it from spreading further.

The use of gunpowder in the Tarbela Lake spread over 100 square miles, including five districts of Hazara, will prove to be very dangerous for the future as due to this, rare species of fish and other aquatic life in the lake are also becoming extinct. They said the Department of Fisheries was losing millions of rupees due to such illegal yet dangerous fishing practices.

Gangs rule the roost

The Department of Fisheries Haripur Assistant Director, Abdul Awwal Khan, said the illegal hunting of fish was going on in remote areas of Tarbela Lake, including Gandaf, Gadun, Swabi, Darmaht, Khabal, Singha and Haripur Ghazi. “Gangs armed with dangerous weapons routinely use tonnes of explosives daily to illegally fish in Tarbela Lake day and night,” he said and added that the practice also leaves tonnes of rare fish and other aquatic life dead.

Delving into the details, he said if these people, who are involved in carrying out illegal fishing, are stopped, they resist due to which there is a strong possibility of a major clash between the contractor’s staff and the fishermen at any time.

“Even before this, there had been many incidents of fighting including firing. Every kilometre along the lake shore, fish are being poached illegally. As the demand for fish increases in the winter season, illegal fishing also reaches its peak,” he explained. “These poachers often include hobbyists, but a large number of fishermen sell the illegally hunted fish in other fish markets in the country,” he added.

The fisheries official wondered from where these gangs were able to procure such large quantities of dangerous explosives daily. “Due to the use of explosives and other materials, the water of Tarbela Lake is also likely to be poisoned,” he warned.

Contamination feared

The water of Tarbela Lake is used by animals as well as by the people of the villages living on the banks as well as by travellers which is a matter of grave concern. “We moved the offices of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary, IGP, Fisheries Secretary, DG and other high-ups to prevent illegal hunting of fish and daily use of gunpowder in Tarbela Lake,” he said. “We demanded strict notice and immediate action, however, no progress has been made so far,” he lamented.

He said KP Livestock, Dairy Development and Fisheries Secretary Dr Anbar Ali Khan was trying to develop fisheries as an industry.

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