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Friday Dec 28 2018
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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Sher Mahi fish is dying out

Sher Mahi, a warm water fish indigenous to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is witnessing a steep decline in its population

They were resilient for a while, but not anymore.

Sher Mahi, a warm water fish indigenous to Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is witnessing a steep decline in its population due to excessive fishing, pollution and climate change.

In a desperate attempt to preserve the species, the provincial government has banned fishing from June to August in the province, soon after the fish’s breeding season in April. But even that has not helped. Nets are still cast into the water during the prohibited season, and the state has not been able to do much to put an end to the illegal hunt.

“The watchers appointed by the government to report on unlawful fishing are not doing their jobs,” said Nasir Khan, a local resident, “Until people are caught and prosecuted, it will not stop.” 

There are only 24 watchers employed, which is also insufficient.

Every year, the Sher Mahi swims along the tide of the Kabul river, which passes through Kabul and Jalalabad in Afghanistan, and makes its way to Peshawar, Charsadda and Nowshera in Pakistan, where it is then hunted and served as a delicacy.

The decline in population has also driven up the prices of Sher Mahi. Now, a kilogram can go for over Rs1,000

“These hunters further damage the population by using special driftnets, dynamites and chemical which also destroy the eggs,” Musafir, a fish seller, tells Geo.tv.

Yearly, the government issues 200 permits for fishing.

Then, there is the large amount of garbage being dumped into the river. “Some locals have also diverted their sewage lines to flow directly into the water body,” explains Fawad Khalil, assistant director at the state-run Directorate of Fisheries in Peshawar. “We have fined such people, but our resources are also limited.” The fine is a meagre Rs. 50 per fish and if convicted a person could face up to six months in jail.

All attempts to rear the fish in hatcheries and fish farms have foundered. The decline in population has also driven up the prices of Sher Mahi. Now, a kilogram can go for over Rs1,000.

If the current trend continues, soon the Kabul river will be emptied of the fish altogether. 

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