Karachi fish kill

Experts blame 2003 oil spill, foreign trawlers

Published: Saturday 15 October 2005

-- a huge quantity of dead fish recently washed ashore at Karachi coast in Pakistan, with scientists attributing the mass death to pollution by the July 2003 oil spill from tanker Tasman Spirit, off the Karachi coast. They also blame dumping of by-catch by foreign trawlers into the sea for the mishap. Concerns have been heightened by the possibility of the dead fish, containing harmful pollutants, having been fed to poultry.

An expert analysing a sample of the dead small fish, locally called "mughal", confirmed that oil was found in their guts. About 100 tonnes of fish were collected by vendors and fishery workers to be used as poultry feed. The Federal Environment Protection Agency, Islamabad has issued advertisements in leading newspapers, warning people not to use the dead fish, saying it could be injurious to human health. But it is feared that some of the fish have already been fed to poultry, because they were picked up before authorities collected the bulk from the beach.

With the Southwest Monsoon weak and winds from the south west to the coast blowing low at night, the fish moved towards the region in submerged waters, in search of vegetation and animal life for feeding and died due to pollution, experts explain. They allege that the beaches were not cleared properly after the Tasman Spirit spilled 28,000 tonnes crude oil into the sea. Soon after, dead fish covered with oil were found at the Clifton beach, close to the site of the spill. Director, Coastal Ecosystem, International Union for Conservation of Nature-Pakistan, Tahir Qureshi, also says that apart from pollution by chemicals, the large-scale mortality could be caused by the refuse (trash fish) that foreign trawlers normally dump in the sea after sorting out their catch.

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