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Commercial fishing returns to Islamabad lake
February 05 2018 12:38 AM
Rawal Lake in Islamabad.


After nearly 14 years, commercial fishing has returned to Rawal Lake this winter. The move is not without its detractors, with environmentally conscious citizens as well as officials from the relevant agencies opposing commercial fishing on various grounds; possibly because, in some cases, illegal fishing has 
benefited many individuals.
In addition to containing poaching and illegal fishing, the contract for fishing in Rawal Lake also includes a clause to replenish the fish 
“The most important segment of the contract was not payment to the national exchequer but the clause that the contractor would introduce fish seedlings too,” said Lubna Said, a senior official from the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration.
Said told that the ICT was responsible for stopping illegal fishing, which continues in isolated comers of the lake, while the contractor must abide by ethical modes of fishing netting to supplement the aquatic ecosystem.
The contract was awarded at Rs44 million in January 2017 for two years, and the contractor introduced around 1m fish seeds at a cost of around Rs10m in March and April.
One of the partners in the contracting firm said they have introduced six varieties in the lake that are compatible 
with the local environment.
“Islamabad has wide ranging temperatures, from up to 40°C in the summer to almost 0°C in peak winter, so fish that have higher survival rates in Rawal Lake are Thaila, Mori, Rahu, Mahasher, Silver and Bighead,” M. Aurangzeb explained. Sole, he said, was already present in the lake in 
significant numbers.
He added that Mahasher was present in Rawal Lake in significantly high numbers in previous decades as it has a tendency to breed in such places, but excessive fishing in previous years had depleted almost all aquatic life in the lake.
The contractor will reintroduce seedlings in March and April 2018, which will then be ready for harvest in the winter. The last contract for commercial fishing was awarded in 2004 and terminated the same year, after the contractor developed differences with the ICT over continued illegal fishing.
“One such example of abusive fishing in the past decade is that visitors to any corner of the lake will hardly find a turtle or tortoise there,” 
Aurangzeb said.
The fleet of 25 boats place their nets in the morning, and the same boats go back in the second half of the day to pick the nets for the harvest.
While most of the catch is sold the wholesalers at the Gunjmandi fish market in Rawalpindi, a portion is also bought by enthusiasts near Naval Club.
Up to 600kg of fresh fish is bought by the residents seeking quality 
produce at the market price.
Aurangzeb added, “There has to be a dedicated sale point in the city for residents where they can purchase the fish of their choice, as almost all stallholders claim that they do not sell farm-raised fish but those caught at 
Rawal Lake.”

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