Fishermen caught a rare marine species, a polka-dot ribbonfish.
A rare marine species known as polka-dot ribbonfish was caught off Charna Island by some local fishermen on Wednesday.

The fish, scientifically known as desmodema polystictum, was spotted in Murray Ridge after the last sighting nearly five years ago. This is the first time the fish was caught in a fisherman's gillnet as it is usually found in deep, circumtropical waters.

The fisherman, Nakhuda Nisar Hussain, has been trained by the World Wide Fund-Pakistan (WWF-P) to make sure they do not harm endangered species. He was working in the area where the water was at least 1,034 metres deep when he caught the specimen. The fish measured 32 inches with flashing red fins and faint polka dots all over the body. After taking photos of the ribbonfish, he released it back into the water.

Hussain claimed he had never seen this rare fish before. The training on the importance of rare species has helped rescue many non-target species which previously used to be discarded, he said. Now they are being safely released.

"This fish normally lives at depths of hundreds of metres but is occasionally seen in shallow waters," said Muhammad Moazzam Khan, a marine fisheries technical adviser with the WWF-P. "The addition of the polka-dot ribbonfish is a significant addition to the marine fauna of Pakistan."

Khan told The Express Tribune that this kind of ribbonfish are not found everywhere across the globe. "It is first time in Pakistan that fisherman caught it and fortunately it was released safely back into the water," he said.

The maximum weight of this rare fish was not more than one kilogramme, he added. This species is an inhabitant of the mesopelagic zone of Pakistan and feeds on lantern fishes, squids and crustaceans. This occurrence also indicates the rich marine biodiversity that exists in the offshore and coastal areas of Pakistan, he added.

According to the WWF-P officials, a polka-dot ribbonfish was previously spotted in the Northern Arabian Sea on two occasions. The occurrence was recorded by French scientist M L Bauchot and Norwegian scientist Gabriella Bianchi in 1994.

In 2010, another specimen was caught during a research survey carried out by Food and Agriculture Organisation's Norwegian research vessel, Dr R V Fridtjof Nansen, in the offshore waters of Pakistan.

In the last eight months, the fishermen have released 15 whale sharks, three manta rays, two sunfish and one Longman's beaked whale along with hundreds of olive Ridley and green turtles.