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By Syed M. Aslam
Jul 24 - 30, 2000

"Wanted: A good woman who can clean and cook fish, dig worms, sew, and owns a good fishing boat and motor. Please enclose photo of boat and motor." The placard hanging in the photo shop, which primarily serves as the sportfishing outlet, reflects Syed Aziz Agha's passion for fishing. Angling is not only a passion but also the bread and butter of Agha, who operates a sportfishing tour and guide service including boat charters and pleasure cruises in the virgin waters off the Karachi coast. Virgin because saltwater angling still much remains a relatively new sport in this part of the world despite being gifted with an abundant variety of great gamefish which are not available at any one place anywhere in the world.

The continental shelf of Karachi is the home of majestic tailwalking Sailfish, the ferocious fighter Tuna, and such great gamefish as huge muscle-testing Yellowfin, Long Tail and Big-Eye Tuna; Giant Trevally, Cobia, giant Mackerel, Red Snapper, acrobatic Mahi Mahi, Queenfish, Grouper, and high-speed-runner Wahoo. There are also Barracudas, giant as well as smaller Reef Shark, Kawakawa, Garfish, etc.

Agha is the representative of the International Game Fish Association, a Florida based organisation responsible for ethical international angling regulations and to serve as a central processing center for world catch data. Agha takes pride to be the only offshore fishing guide in Pakistan. Agha's Sportfishing organises Sportfishing tournaments every year.

PAGE: How did your fascination with the sea and passion for sportfishing start?

Agha: It started when I was only seven. By 1972 I was a full-blown fishing enthusiast. Over the years I realised that I was not cut out for any other job but sportfishing. In 1984 I started working as a professional saltwater fishing guide.

PAGE: What's needed to put Karachi on the sportfishing map?

Agha: Karachi is the only, and I mean only, country in the world which has no jetties and piers to let its immense population enjoy the bounties of marine beauty bestowed by Allah Almighty. Over 13 million Karachiites are deprived of even the basic recreational facilities which comes from the proximity to the sea. Karachi's coast is the gift of God to its citizens but half-a-century of neglect restricts its population not to enjoy the immense marine beauty all around the city. Even the citizens on the coastal cities in the under-developed countries have not been deprived of such basic recreational facilities. The case of Balochistan which is gifted with similar bounties of nature is no different. As if this is not enough, the recreation-starved people are also not allowed in the finest coastal stretch at Hub River Mount near Paradise Point which remains out of bound for the public as it is being declared a sensitive area by the Navy. Encouraging domestic tourism is the prerequisite for attracting foreign tourism and such restricted access to the locals would hardly promote marine tourism — be it leisure or sportfishing.

PAGE: What's the potential and economics of angling tourism?

Agha: The coastal waters near Karachi is the home of some of the best known big game fish. It is the home of the most varied variety of gamefish anywhere in the world. I repeat anywhere. Many countries which have much less to offer to saltwater anglers have been able to derive the best economic benefits by promoting angling tourism. Angling tourism plays a vital role in the many economies around the world. The Caribbean nations like Bahamas and Cayman Islands have exploited their angling potential to the hilt. Anglers worldwide are ever ready to travel to the remotest parts of the globe to hunt and catch big gamefish like Marlin, Swordfish, Spearfish, Sailfish and Tuna which are abundantly found near the Karachi coast.

Promoting gamefishing can help us derive many economic benefits. It supports services such as sale of fishing gear, boat hire and charters, guide and tour operators, sea-food outlets, hotel accommodations and travel arrangements.

PAGE: What is needed to promote gamefishing?

Agha: As far as quality accommodation facilities are concerned we have enough five- and four-star hotels in Karachi. However, we need to develop jetties, piers and ramps along the coast plus an effective transportation link to let people have easy access to the glittering water. We should start promoting marine tourism on top priority basis to draw the attention of domestic tourists to immense sea beauty around Karachi. We should induct high-class boats to cut travelling time to fishing spots and to offer better safety. The foreign tourists will follow. My services have been used by Consul Generals of the US, Switzerland and South Korea numerous times and I can say from personal experience that without matching international safety standards we would not be able to attract the international anglers despite having the best gamefish areas anywhere in the world.

PAGE: Any future plans?

Agha: I am writing a comprehensive guidebook on the saltwater angling in Pakistan which will be published next year. Also, I would like to meet General Pervez Musharraf to inform him about the immense economic benefits of promoting sportfishing in the country.