Ifrah Naseem Malik, Student  (University of Karachi)

Pakistan is considered one of the developing countries in south Asia that has just started building its economy. The Karachi city, anciently called Kolachi (fishing village), has a great value for Pakistan’s economy in fisheries sector. But the exploitation and overuse of resources has become a major threat. The common waters are shared by all but protected by none and one of the main reasons seems to be the lack of awareness or care.

Overfishing has been a huge concern over the past few years. The fishermen are fishing in more open and much deeper water. Unregulated fishing, use of finer mesh-sized nets and by-catch are few of the many problems. Oyster beds have been recently reported to be over fished to the brink of extinction. But the fishermen continue to use closely knitted, nylon fishing nets, locally known as Bhulo Gujjo, that are not only entrapping various forms of larvae but also catch a massive number of oysters. It can deplete fish stocks and inevitably destroy fisheries in the future.

Marine pollution seems to be another concern. Despite the agreement on London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, all kinds of waste be it industrial, chemical, solid or other kind is still being thrown in the ocean. 65% of the litter on the coastal areas consists of plastic bottles, wrappers, bags, disposable utensils, etc. (WWF). It is estimated that 250 metric tonnes of plastic will be in the oceans by 2030, and by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. The medical waste and industrial waste are also disposed in the offshore waters. Karachi’s 15 million residents generate about 12,000 tons of waste each day most of which is not disposed properly and this untreated waste is being dumped on the ocean. This makes it toxic for not only marine life but also for human consumption when it is moved further up in the food chain of the fish and shellfish. Consequently, there won’t be any safe seafood left for human consumption or fish stocks might even deplete leading to a huge economic loss.

However, there are few measures that can be adapted for the long term sustainable use of the ocean. Firstly, there is a need for fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance, limiting the catch and banning illegal fisheries. Secondly, local fishermen must be given catch shares to individual fishermen, cooperatives, or fishing communities for their exclusive use of marine resources. Finally, eco-friendly industries should  be encouraged at the governmental levels and the dumping of hazardous waste must be checked by the authorities. Businesses should be convinced to have treatment plants that measure up to international standards through government assistance. Such practices can help in maintaining the sustainability and preventing the tragedy of the commons.


About the Author: Ifrah Naseem Malik, a student of Marine Sciences  in University of Karachi. She has interests in ecology, conservation, wildlife, human-nature social and psychological relationships and climate change. She is also a poetess and artist by passion.