Bosporus fish, or: fishermen as easy target

An utterly sad low in the trouble over fishing the Bosporus: the head of a fishermen’s cooperative was shot because he opposed the way some of his colleagues scrape the Bosporus fishing grounds with their nets, contributing to certain fish becoming extinct. The man lost his left eye. It’s about time the government takes responsibility.

If you didn’t know any better, the fishing boats in the Bosporus would look simply romantic. Rough, of course, but romantic against the scenery of the city and with the ever changing weather conditions on the water. The truth is, there is a fight going on for economic survival, and it’s getting out of hand.

Years ago, the Bosporus offered tuna fish and sword fish, but these species have become extinct already. Nowadays, the discussion is about lüfer – or should I say defne yapragi, cinekop or sarikanat? All names for the same fish in different stages of its life, the defne yapragi being the baby, the lüfer being the adult. The key question is: why is the lüfer on the verge of becoming extinct? Overfishing!, some people say. Too much city light!, others say. Too much maritime traffic!, is sometimes heard. Or: pollution!

Too short 

Who is right? Nobody knows, because the flabbergasting fact is that there is no research whatsoever into the problem. Amazing, of course, for a city where fish is so loved and so anchored in daily life, and where so many people make a living from it. Despite the lack of research, all kinds of restrictions are imposed on fishermen. For some months now, they have been banned from taking cinekop shorter than 20 centimetres, so they are not caught before they reproduce. Still too short!, shouts Greenpeace, which demands a 25 centimetre limit. In the fish markets, you find small cinekop everywhere: the fishermen in general don’t obey the rules, the government isn’t enforcing them.

Greenpeace’s campaign to raise awareness to the lüfer problems are attracting quite a bit of attention, largely because of the funny slogan: how many centimetres is yours? The fish you catch, that is. But how fair is it to make the fishermen responsible for the balance of the fish populations that swim en masse through the Bosporus from the cold waters of the Black Sea to the warmer Aegean Sea?

Megalomaniac projects 

Fishermen are the easiest target. What if research finds that the heavy vessel traffic is the problem? What if city pollution is the biggest cause of fish becoming extinct? That would mean the government would be faced with the immense task of tackling these problems. Which is not easy, especially when you are about to start building megalomaniac projects like a third Bosporus bridge and two new cities on the Black Sea coast.

There is no excuse whatsoever for violence in the heavy competition between fishermen. But the responsibility of the government is to create funds for decent research into the problems of fish stock in the Bosporus and surrounding waters. And then act accordingly to tackle the problem, instead of just blaming the easiest target.

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