KARACHI, July 6: The whale shark that had died after becoming entangled in a net cast off the Hawkesbay beach was chopped on Tuesday morning and taken away for use in poultry feed as Sindh Wildlife Department staff failed to move decisively to take its possession.

The rare fish whose skeleton could have been preserved for research was sold for Rs500 as SWD officials say the department has no funds to pay in such a situation. The liver fetched Rs800.

The 300-kilo whale shark had died after it was caught in a net and was dragged onto the shore on Monday by fishermen living in Abdur Rehman goth. The 20-foot-long fish was a young male of the species.

Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest living fish species. It is listed ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is included in the appendix 2 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

Dr Fehmida Firdous of the Sindh Wildlife Department told Dawn that the fishing community “made an issue of the fish carcass and were not willing to hand it over to us (without payment)”.

“We tried to make them understand the significance of the marine species protected under the law as well as the consequences they might face for rejecting our request, but they didn’t listen. They persistently made a claim to the fish and said it was their source of income,” said the SWD official.

“In fact, the whole community was up against us. I left the place on Monday after deputing two personnel at the spot to take care of the carcass. But it didn’t help either. The carcass was cut up into pieces in the presence of our men in the morning,” she said.

The SWD wanted to preserve the fish skeleton, as it had done about five to six years ago when a 36-footlong whale washed ashore on the Clifton beach, she added.

Giving their version of the story, fishermen claimed that the SWD officials did not turn up on Tuesday morning in violation of their promise, and they had to sell the fish to a private party. When Dawn’s team visited the site on Tuesday morning, six men were busy chopping the fish.

“I have paid Rs500 to the villagers and in the end each of us working on the carcass would earn almost the same amount. The meat will be sold to a poultry feed factory in Korangi for further processing,” said Khamesa alias Dodi, who had bought the fish.

The fishermen had already sold its liver for Rs800 to a party that might extract oil from it. The meat of whale shark is not eaten as fishermen consider its consumption ‘religiously dis tasteful’.

However, locals have no qualms about eating small sharks. According to them, a shark caught last year fetched them Rs50,000.

Qadir Bakhsh, whose relative Imam Bakhsh had caught the fish locally called ‘bahran’, recalled that a fish of the same species was caught about 20 years back off the Hawkesbay beach in a similar way, though that was much bigger in size.

Regarding the type of the net in which the whale shark got entangled, he said it was specially made of silky thread to catch soya fish. A 40kg net may sell for around Rs20,000.

According to Dr Babar Hussain of the WWF-Pakistan, a few samples of the liver and skin of the fish had been secured which would be handed over to Dr Mauvis Gore, a UK-based scientist, for DNA profiling. The doctor would arrive here at the end of this year. (dawn)

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