First National Report Of Pakistan to the Convention on Biological Diversity Ministry of Environment Government of Pakistan Contents

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Invasive or introduced species

Ballast water Cargo ships normally use seawater to provide ballast. At source port it fills in the seawater while discharging the cargo. At the destination port it discharges the ballast water. There are thousands of marine species that may be carried in ships’ ballast water. This may include anything that is small enough to pass through a ship’s ballast water intake ports and pumps. These organisms include bacteria and other microbes, small invertebrates and the eggs, cysts and larvae of various species. The problem is compounded by the fact that virtually all marine species have life cycles that include a plank tonic stage or stages. It is fortunate that a vast majority of marine species carried in ballast water do not survive the journey, as the ballasting and de-ballasting cycle and the environment inside ballast tanks can be quite hostile to organism’s survival. Even for those that do survive a voyage and are discharged, the chance of surviving in the new environmental conditions are generally low, particularly where predation by and/or competition from native species further reduces the chances of survival. However, when all factors are favourable, an introduced species may survive to establish a reproductive population in the host environment, it may even become invasive, out-competing native species and multiplying into pest proportions. As a result, this factor imposes problems on the whole ecosystems and the community composition begins to change. It is estimated that at least 7,000 different species are being carried in ships’ ballast tanks around the world.

Pakistan needs to start a program to monitor ballast water for possible invasive species. The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) authority Karachi has started such a program and efforts are planned to meet the international obligations in this regard. Ports in Pakistan should have proper receptacles for collecting ballast water as required under "Guidelines for the control and management of ships’ ballast water, to minimize the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens". Guidelines were adopted by the International Maritime Agency IMO Assembly in 1997, by resolution A.868 (20) of the GEF/UNDP/IMO Global Ballast Water Management Programme (GloBallast).

It has been reported by the Karachi Port Trust KPT that among flora, the dinoflagellates, diatoms and Algal spores of the blue green algae may be transported through the Ballast water. Among fauna, the planktonic life forms of Crustaceans copepods, barnacles, crabs etc have the tendency to be transferred from one place to another. According to some studies, Ctenophores and Cnidarians are more opportunistic to transfer from one place to another place through ballast water. KPT reports that it is in contact with the Ministry of Science and Technology through Ministry of Ports and Shipping for participation in a program for Alien Invasive Species.

Box 11: Marine Turtle Conservation26

Thousands of years of biological and geographic evolution and manipulation have been unable to significantly alter the process of marine turtle nesting on the beaches of Karachi. Out of the eight species of marine turtles known world-wide in tropical and sub-tropical marine waters, two have been positively identified as nesting and lying on the beaches of 27 Karachi. These are the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea). Pakistan is thus amongst the very few major marine turtle nesting grounds in the world. Over-exploitation for commercial purposes has caused the world-wide turtle population to drop to drastically low levels. Like all other species of turtles, the green turtle and the olive ridley are also endangered and are threatened with extinction due to a number of factors. Observations indicate that poaching, predators and human habitation along the beaches are interrupting the turtle's egg laying process and destroying their nests, eggs and hatchlings. According to observations made by the Sindh Wildlife Department, the peak nesting season is from September to November, although turtles come up at lower densities throughout the year. The nesting process takes about three hours. It begins when the turtles come up onto the sandy shore, find a suitable place, dig a body pit and make an egg pit or nest. This is followed by egg-laying and the pit is covered by sand. Finally, the turtles go back to the sea. It sheds tears during nesting which serves as an important biological process for balancing the salt concentration in the body. About one hundred or more eggs are laid at a time and hatch after forty to sixty days of incubation, sometimes more, depending on temperature and other environmental factors. The hatchlings are very active and instinctively orient themselves towards the sea, but they must walk on firm sand to reach the waves. This is the time when they can be attacked by birds, dogs and other predators. If they survive, they reach maturity after twelve to fifteen years; when they come back to the same beach to lay eggs. A pioneering step for conservation was taken by the Sindh Wildlife Department, which passed the Protection Ordinance of 1972. The Act declared harassment or hurting an adult or to steal eggs or disturb nests an offence. A pilot project was started with the resources available from the Government of Sindh and WWF Pakistan in 1979. The project was included by the IUCN/WWF in their global protection programme “The Seas Must Live” (1976). The project proposal for the funding of marine turtle research and conservation programmes was forwarded to the IUCN and the WWF and approved in 1980. Since then, the Sindh Wildlife Department has started a protection and research programme for marine turtles. Protection, research and education are the three main components of this project. Protection and conservation includes beach patrols, and the occasional prosecution of poachers. Conservation includes the transfer of eggs to protected enclosures, where the natural cycle is observed as much as possible. The eggs are buried in the sand at the same depth at which the mother laid them. A wire mesh bearing a serial number for record covers the nest. After hatching, the young turtles are released into the sea. To date, more than 4 million hatchlings have been released into the sea. After laying eggs, turtles are marked by metal tags on both front flippers. Each tag carries “W” as a code for Pakistan with the return addresses inscribed on the other side. More than 3,000 turtles have been tagged and 513 have been recovered so far. To minimise the mortality rate of hatchlings, the captive rearing of sea turtles has begun, which after emergence, tiny hatchlings are kept in seawater tanks for a few months. Captive rearing or head starting is the practice of raising hatchlings to make them less vulnerable to the predators than the hatchlings growing in the wild. The aim of this practice is to contribute more to a healthy population.

At times, the turtles are examined for diseases and parasites. Leeches of the genus Ozobranchus are usually found as ecto-parasites attached to their necks, eyes and other soft parts. Besides conservation and research, education of the masses is an important aspect of this project for which publicity material has been produced such as posters, T- shirts, stickers, signboards, information hoarding, greeting cards, brochures and documentary films. Guided tours to the beaches are also organised for students and the public to educate and aware them about the conservation of this species and the protection of our natural heritage.

Hawks Bay and Sands Pit beaches are among the major 11 turtle nesting beaches of the world and thus conservation activities here are viewed from a global perspective by the International Community. Two globally threatened species of marine turtle species viz: Green turtle Chelonia mydas and Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olicvacea) visit the Sandspit and Hawk’s bay area of Karachi. Karachi Port Trust has allocated a piece of land to Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) at SandsPit area where a hatchlings nursery has been established to protect hatchlings from the predators. The marine turtles are protected under the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972 and the department is actively involved in protection and conservation. Regulations have been enforced by KPT on area users and hut owners to provide conditions to facilitate turtle nesting. The backwaters of KPT were the home ground of the small cetaceans and dugongs. They can be restored through improvement in the backwaters.

Box 12: Mangrove Ecosystem

Realizing the importance of mangroves and the need to promote their ecological and economical significance, the Karachi Port Trust KPT has developed partnerships with various organizations. In 1990s KPT worked with IUCN on the reforestation project at Sandspit back waters. In late 1990s, KPT assigned a piece of land to WWF in the middle of mangrove forests at Sandspit to establish a Wetland Center. The centre has since been established and functioning well. The main objective of this center is to create awareness about living coastal resources including mangroves. At least 1000 mangrove saplings are planted each year to make up for losses suffered earlier by the mangrove forests in the area.

In 2001-2002 KPT embarked upon a project “Restoration of mangroves in China Creek”. Further, in 2003-2004 KPT developed a working partnership with local CBOs with financial assistance from UNDP-SGP for the mangrove conservation at China Creek. The project had to be aborted after a year but KPT continued its mangrove restoration plan of China Creek through its resources.

In January 2006, the Marine Pollution Control Department of KPT started work on rehabilitation of Mangroves in China Creek. Under this project, an area of about 10 hectares was selected for the direct sowing of Rhizophora mucronata. Three thousand saplings were sown by direct sowing methods and 40 % survival has been achieved.

Both eastern and western backwaters of Karachi Harbor have sizable mangrove areas (approximately 1000 hectares) facing tremendous population pressure. Out of the 8 species that were found in the area a few decades back, now there are only few species like Avicennia marina and Rhizophora mucronata.

The only Protected Area in Pakistan that has some marine areas is the Hingol National Park in the boundaries of which are included coastal waters. IUCN-P is working in collaboration with various governmental and non-governmental organizations to get 10 % of the marine areas declared as protected under the Global 2010 Biodiversity Targets.

Institutional arrangements

There is a need of better coordination between the various agencies dealing with marine fisheries; such as the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (MINFAL) which is controlled through the Marine Fisheries Department, the Fisheries Development Commission, the Sindh Wildlife and Fisheries Departments and the Ministry of Environment. The Fishermen Co-operative Society, Karachi, looks after the fishermen’s interests.

IUCN Pakistan along with other governmental agencies is making efforts to prepare the Integrated Marine and Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Plan. Amongst the actions taken to improve the scientific knowledge in Pakistan’s marine biodiversity are: 1994 Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Workshop jointly organized by UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the National Institute of Oceanography, Karachi, workshop on Coastal Zone Management and Environmental Impact Assessment held at the British Council, Karachi 1998. Center of Excellence in Marine Biology initiated a short course on Coastal Zone Management in 2004. A draft document ‘Coastal Environmental Management Plan’ prepared by Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, is also available. The WWF Scientific Committee has also funded some small projects on marine biodiversity. The latest initiative of the Ministry of Food Agriculture and Livestock (MINFAL) in preparing the National Fisheries Policy 2006 through a wide consultative process with the financial assistance of FAO is expected to have a holistic approach in this sector.

The port authorities like Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and Port Qasim Authority (PQA) have some officers who have acquired skills in ICZM at International Universities under UNCTAD training programs.

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