Fishermen not taking bait as Chinese boats line up in Karachi

In this undated photo, fishing vessels of the Fujian Fishery Company move from the Gwadar port towards Karachi. (Photo courtesy: Fishermen Cooperatives Society)
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Updated 21 October 2020

Fishermen not taking bait as Chinese boats line up in Karachi

  • 3 million people in danger of losing livelihood; fish stocks could be depleted

KARACHI: Pakistan is planning to allow Chinese companies to carry out deep-sea fishing in the country’s territorial waters. But a pressure group representing Pakistani fishermen has said the move could threaten the livelihoods of at least 3 million people.

A dozen Chinese deep-sea trawlers docked at the port of Karachi last month, worrying local fishermen who said that commercial fishing vessels and bottom trawling would deplete fish stocks in the exclusive federal sea zones off the provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan. 

Bottom trawling, which involves dragging nets across the seafloor to scoop up fish, stirs up the sediment lying on the seabed, displaces or harms some marine species, causes pollutants to mix into plankton and move into the food chain, and creates harmful algae blooms or oxygen-deficient dead zones.

The coastal line of Sindh and Baluchistan is 1,050 kilometers long, said chairman of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum Mohammad Ali Shah, and around three million fishermen relied on the sea to survive. A new fishing policy was expected but had yet to be revealed by the government, he added.

“The deep-sea trawler policy has not yet been approved, but before that they (China) have brought these trawlers,” Shah told Arab News, describing the arrival of the Chinese vessels as illegal.

In 2018, the government enacted a deep-sea fishing licensing policy that was opposed by bodies representing fishermen and provincial government. They called it a constitutional violation and an encroachment on the livelihoods of fishermen in the coastal provinces.

But fears about foreign fishing companies are not new.

For years, fishermen in the southwestern city of Gwadar in Baluchistan have protested against foreign trawlers.

Tensions first began to surface when the Fisheries Department disclosed its plan to issue licenses to foreign fishing vessels to operate in an exclusive economic zone in 2016.

But last week the federal minister for maritime affairs, Ali Haider Zaidi, said the country’s new policy would not allow Chinese trawlers to engage in unregulated deep-sea fishing. Bottom trawling would be banned under the new system, he added.

“Importing boats is not illegal,” he told Arab News. “How you use them has to be regulated.”

Pakistan divides its sea into three zones. The federal government controls zone 3 (from 20 to 200 nautical miles). Up to 12 nautical miles (zone-1) is the domain of Sindh and Baluchistan and, between 12 to 20 nautical miles, the sea is declared a buffer zone.

Local fishermen are not allowed to fish in Zone 3, and foreign fishing vessels are not permitted to fish in the other two zones under the existing policy.

The Fishermen’s Cooperative Society (FCS), which issued the permit to the Chinese trawlers, said the vessels would not use the destructive bottom trawling method and would help to “upgrade” the Pakistani fishing industry and exports.

Official figures put the annual value of Pakistan’s fish exports at around $450 million.

“Bringing Chinese trawlers for deep-sea fishing is in line with the government’s deep-sea fishing policy and aimed at upgrading and modernizing fishing, besides providing job opportunities to local fishermen,” Abdul Berr, FCS chairman, told Arab News. “Around 3,500 fishermen will get employment opportunities with the arrival of the world’s latest fishing boats and modern small boats. First, 70 percent of the staff at trawlers and processing facilities will be local. There will be no fishing in provincial, territorial waters. The trawlers will bring all their catch to Karachi, where it will be processed in factories and then exported.”

Small local fishermen would receive modern fiber boats on easy instalments, he added, a step toward replacing their obsolete boats.

But Sindh’s minister for livestock and fisheries, Abdul Bari Pitafi, said the mega fishing ships would wipe out sea life even if they were only operating in the federal government’s Zone 3.

“We will also oppose its (trawlers’) operations in Zone 3 because they will just wipe out sea life including the fish’s seed,” Pitafi told Arab News.

A 2016 survey from the Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed that more than 72 percent of the fish stock in Pakistan’s coastal areas had already declined.

“One trawler does a catch that is equal to a catch by 100 of our fishing boats,” fisherman Younus Khaskheli said. “And their fishing net is the most dangerous one because it hunts thousands of tons of fish.”

Tens of thousands of fishing boats were registered in Pakistan, he added, with fishermen from Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even Bangladesh fishing in these waters.

“Our sea stock will end. The country will lose the income of billions and our fishermen will become jobless. There won’t be any food left in the sea.”


Five UK MPs cheated possible death in 2018 Iranian bomb plot

Updated 23 min 1 sec ago

Five UK MPs cheated possible death in 2018 Iranian bomb plot

  • Thwarted terror attack on Free Iran rally in Paris underscores threat posed by Iranian diplomats abroad: Bob Blackman MP

LONDON: Five British members of parliament (MPs) were among the thousands who escaped a terror plot at a rally for Iranian resistance groups in Paris two years ago, that was allegedly engineered by an Iranian diplomat.

A bomb intended to explode at the Free Iran gathering in the French capital in June 2018 was found in the car of an Iranian couple who were arrested in Brussels.

Among the potential thousands of bombing victims were five British MPs: Bob Blackman, Matthew Offord, Theresa Villiers, Sir David Amess, and Roger Godsiff, as well as senior US politicians including American President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

The rally, organized by Iranian umbrella opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), had tens of thousands of people in attendance and was aimed at highlighting the global, democratic, and grassroots opposition to the current regime in Tehran.

An Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi — believed to be the mastermind of the plot as well as an intelligence operative — has gone on trial in Belgium for allegedly smuggling the explosives used in the foiled plot from Iran into Europe by using his diplomatic privileges to avoid airport security checks.

Assadi was an ambassador in the Iranian embassy in Vienna, and his alleged involvement in the bomb plot has prompted discussion as to the true role of Iranian diplomats abroad.

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READ MORE: Belgium tries Iranian diplomat over bomb plot

Two years after failed bomb plot, Iranian opposition rallies backers online

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Bob Blackman, one of the MPs who attended the rally, told Arab News that the plot was an attempt by the Iranian regime to “take revenge” on the NCRI and their leader Maryam Rajavi for the groundswell in support for their group among Iranians inside Iran and abroad.

He reiterated a parliamentary motion in which he urged the UK and European governments to take seriously the security threat posed by Iran’s foreign diplomatic missions.

The politician said he condemned Iran’s “misuse of diplomatic privileges” and “reiterates the need to try the suspects and expel other Iranian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover or as ex-members of the opposition.”

The UK, Blackman added, should “make it clear to the regime that its continued use of diplomatic missions and embassies to facilitate, carry out, and plan terrorist attacks will have serious consequences, including expelling of diplomats and closing Iran’s embassy.”

He also urged the British government to “impose punitive measures on the regime’s leadership including (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei, (President Hassan) Rouhani, and (Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad) Zarif who decided and were involved in the Paris bomb plot.”

Blackman added: “The UK government must also proscribe the entire IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and the Ministry of Intelligence as terrorist organizations because these organizations are instrumental in the regime’s export of terrorism.”

The NCRI is frequently referred to as Iran’s “government in waiting” and the body continues to attract high-level attention and endorsements for presenting a credible alternative to the clerical regime in Iran.

Ali Safavi, a member of the NCRI’s foreign affairs committee, told Arab News that the 2018 bomb plot saga once again underscored the threat posed by Iran’s regime not just to its own people and the Middle East, but to the world at large.

He said: “Today’s trial, a culmination of more than two years of investigations, makes it palpably clear that the use of terrorism as a tool of statecraft is part and parcel of the Iranian regime’s DNA.

“This is an imperative and deterrent step to prevent the godfather of international terrorism making the European territory its roaming ground. The Iranian regime’s leaders must be prosecuted and face justice.”