United Nations
Crew based observers release bycatch in the Arabian Sea
by WWF Pakistan (Non-governmental organization (NGO))
WWF-Pakistan has led an initiative for safe release of bycatch species to reduce instances of unreported mortality in the Pakistani tuna gillnet fishery through its crew based observer programme on voluntary basis. In collaboration with the UN Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 74 observers have been trained to record data on the bycatch associated with tuna gillnet fishing. Additionally, the observers were trained to safely release non-target species mainly megafauna entangled in nets on voluntary basis.

Thanks to the program, the fishers have started recording much needed data on the bycatch in the fishery, entanglement of important species as well as mortality in gillnet fishery. The observers have safely released hundreds of marine turtles, whales, dolphins, mobulids, sea snakes and sea birds back into the ocean completely on a voluntary basis, where the fishers/crew dive in the water and cut their nets to untangle a drowning whale shark, dolphin, manta ray among others.

The initiative has been successful in impacting millions around the world through social media outreach who have commended the conservation through on-board observers. The efforts has even received acknowledgement from the International organizations such as Indian Ocean Tuna Commission as well as from regional countries such as Iran, India and Sri Lanka who are considering to replicate a similar program in their countries. . The project activities related to crew-based observer safe releases on voluntary basis have also influenced initiatives in other WWF offices of Southeast Asia and Europe.
It is highly likely that crew-based observer scheme may become part of Indian Ocean Tuna Commission management scheme in the near future, with likely pilots to take place in Northern Indian Ocean countries supported through WWF-Pakistan.

By increasing data collection of unreported bycatch and training observers to release species unintentionally trapped in fishing operations, WWF-Pakistan is helping to conserve these precious marine species and promote cultural change in local fishing operations, highlighting the value of preserving ocean creatures for the benefit of all.
Progress reports
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
  • Large Marine Ecosystem approach
By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
Type of commitment
  • Reduction of fisheries by-catch and product waste/losses
Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
Type of commitment
  • Research capacity development
  • Training and professional development
December 2022
Fishers move from high impact fishing methods to low impact fishing methods reducing mortality of ETP species in the Arabian Sea
Staff / Technical expertise
75 crew based observers commitment exists, in addition to WWF-Pakistan staff staff time contribution
Basic information
Time-frame: 2016 January - 2022 December
Common Oceans, GEF/FAO, ISSF
Ocean Basins
  • Indian Ocean
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Contact information
Rab Nawaz, Programme Director, rnawaz@wwf.org.pk,
Other SDGs
United Nations