Zahid lauds declaration of Astola Island a marine protected area

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ISLAMABAD, June 16 (APP): Federal Minister for Climate Change,
Zahid Hamid lauded on Friday the Balochsitan government for
declaring Astola Island, which is the most important globally known
biodiversity hotspot and the largest island along Pakistan’s coast,
a marine protected area.
The Balochistan government in a historic move declared on June
15 the country’s largest offshore island, Jazira Haft Talar, better
known as Astola through a notification the country’s first Marine
Protected Area (MPA), said in a statement issued by ministry of
climate change here.
The declaration of MPAs is an international obligation of the
federal government under the Convention on Biological Diversity and
its Aichi Biodiversity (ABD) Target No. 11. Agreed in 2010, the ABDs
call for member countries to declare at least 10 percent of their
coastal and marine areas as MPAs, especially the areas of
biodiversity significance.
Highlighting the unprecedented importance of the Astola
Island, the minister said The Astola Island is ecologically
important, as its beaches provide nesting ground for the endangered
green turtle and hawks-bill turtle, while also supporting a large
variety of migratory birds.
The Astola saw-scaled viper is endemic to the island. While
being treeless, due to the absence of a fresh water source, the
island’s vegetation consists of scrubs and large bushes.
The island’s marine ecology supports a variety of corals,
creating a breeding ground fora vast range of marine species.
Astola Island is located approximately 25 km off the coast of
Pasni, a fishing port town in Gwadar district of the Balochistan
province. Spanning 6.7 km it is Pakistan’s largest offshore island.
The minister recalled the onerous process to notify Astola Island
as a MPA was initiated a few years ago under the auspices of Mangroves
for the Future Programme, a regional grouping of South and Southeast
Asian countries of which Pakistan is currently the co-chair.
Explaining various measures taken for declaring the Astola
Island a marine protected area because of its biodiversity of
unprecedented significance, Zahid Hamid said, “His ministry’s team,
lead by him, undertook to spearhead the process of declaration of MPAs
in 2016 after attending the Oceans Conference in Washington at the invitation of outgoing US Secretary of State, John Kerry.
Secretary Climate Change Syed Abu Ahmad Akif said that the
climate change minister Zahid Hamid in April 2017 visited Astola
along with Commander Coast Pakistan Navy, Rear Admiral Abdul Aleem.
He also met the Balochistan chief minister to help complete
the formalities in connection with declaration of Astola as marine
protected area.
“This declaration would have not been possible to come about
without concerted efforts led by Zahid Hamid and very active
collaboration of the Balochistan government and its forest and
wildlife department.
Additional impetus and support was extended to the cause of
declaring Astola Island as marine protected area by the Ministry of
Defence, Pakistan Navy, IUCN, WWF-Pakistan and other members of
Mangroves for the Future Programme, Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Zahid Hamid expressed his appreciation for all the
many persons associated with this landmark declaration, especially,
the Balochistan’s chief secretary, additional chief secretary, and Balochistan secretary forest & wildlife department, Commander Coast, Pakistan Navy, Ministry of Defence, IUCN and WWF – Pakistan.
The climate change minister said, “Efforts are underway in
full swing to declare the Indus Canyon (located where the Indus
delta meets the continental shelf) and several other sites including
Churna Island and Miani Hor, as marine protected areas.”
The Ministry of Climate Change will now be assisting in
developing a management plan for the Astola MPA.