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