‘Indus River Canyon’ | Declared ‘Marine Protected Area’; WWF Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Ministry for Climate Change (MCC) declared the Indus River Canyon (Exclusive Economic Zone) as a Marine Protected Area (MPA), according to the WWF-Pakistan.

It turns to be the second Marine Protected Area of Pakistan following Astola Island, which was notified on 15 June 2017 by the Balochistan government. The WWF-Pakistan appreciated and congratulated Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change for taking proactive action in declaring the Indus River Canyon Marine Protected Area (IRCMPA). The area covers 27,607 square kilometres, thus being the largest MPA of the Arabian Sea.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to which Pakistan is a signatory, requires nations under Article 2 to designate regulate and manage geographically defined areas (protected areas) to achieve specific conservation objectives.

By declaring the Indus River Canyon Marine Protected Area, Pakistan has achieved compliance to Aichi Target 11, which requires that by 2020 at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas of a country are conserved. Astola Island MPA has an area of 400 square kilometres, thus by declaring Indus River Canyon as a Marine Protected Area Pakistan has achieved 11.2 percent of Aichi Target 11 of its sea area as MPAs.

According to Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries), the Indus River Canyon is a deep fissure located about 150 km southeast of Karachi in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Pakistan and southwest off the mouth of the Indus River. It extends in the offshore waters with a maximum depth of about 1,800 m. The Indus Canyon has unique physical features, with sloping margins falling steeply to a depth of 1,800 m and then entering the deep Arabian Sea Basin.

The Indus Swatch is known to be rich in biodiversity including cetaceans, sharks, fish and different species of invertebrates. It is an important fishing ground especially for large sharks whose population has been dwindling due to uncontrolled fishing practices.

The Indus River Canyon MPA is home to rich mega fauna including whales and dolphins. It is reported that about 19 species of cetaceans such as baleen whales, toothed whales, and other whales and porpoises are known from the area. Some species including rough toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis) and stripped dolphin (Stenellacoeruleoalba) are only reported from this area along Pakistan’s coast. The Longsman’s beaked whale (Indopacetuspacificus) has also been also been found here. This area was an important hunting ground for Russian whaling fleets, which hunted 164 Arabian humpback whales in 1966 from this area.

The most of hunted females were observed to be pregnant indicating that this area is an important breeding ground of these rare whales.

Khan further pointed out that the declaration of the Indus River Canyon as an MPA ensures that the biodiversity of the area will be conserved. It will also ensure that protected, threatened and endangered species such as crustaceans, coral, mammals, sharks, turtles, whales, and mobulids will be conserved. Moreover, whale sharks, sunfish, guitarfish and seabirds will not be harvested or killed. ‘This will ensure conservation of these species whose population is drastically declining along the coast of Pakistan,’ he added.

While, Dr Babar Khan, Regional Head (Sindh and Balochistan), WWF-Pakistan appreciated the efforts of the Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan in the declaration of the Indus River Canyon Marine Protected Area.

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