Turkish artisanal fishermen suffer from a shortage of fish due to overfishing by large boats in the Bosphorus, although these days there is a migration of tuna from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.
Large fishing boats prevent small fishermen from reaching their quota and sometimes scare them away when they approach their fishing grounds and their very long nets. One fisherman, Mehmed Dogan, told AFP that he had only caught one fish, although he had been in the water since 6am.
Saadet Karakulak of Istanbul University says that fish stocks have declined considerably in just a few years as transport operations have dropped from around 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes to 328,000 tonnes a year, which he says is “evidence of declining populations”.
Fishermen blame the huge fishing boats for the lack of fish, saying their nets can be over a thousand meters long.
There’s no chance of catching anything when these boats are here, says Ayhanoglu, listing increasingly rare fish on the Bosphorus, including mackerel and bluefish.
But the dramatic decline in fish stocks did not stop the government from closing the strait to traffic for half a day this month to allow commercial fishing boats to pass.
The Department of Transport later backed down after scientists and activists protested the “race to overfishing”, which they described as a biologically important “corridor”.
“This cannot be done. Stocks are under threat… We need a way to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks,” said Bayram Ozturk, head of marine biology department at Istanbul University, recalling the host’s endangered species.
Ozturk, who is also director of the Turkish Marine Research Foundation, warns that plastic waste, pollution and heavy ship traffic are also damaging fish stocks on one of the world’s commercial sea lanes.
More than 200 ships pass through the Bosphorus every day. Ozturki says the strait is just 760 meters wide at its narrowest point.
“Fish don’t have a passport. They are born on the Ukrainian side (of the Black Sea), they travel to the Turkish side », she said, and could end up on a Greek island.
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