As previously reported on this blog, efforts by the Turkish government to set a limit on the size of bluefish (lufer in Turkish) that can be commercially caught in the waters of the Bosphorus, in order to save the fish from being wiped out, have been met by angry protests from fishermen. But now the story has taken a more violent turn, after a gang of fisherman allegedly attacked the head of fishing cooperative who had become a vocal critic of illegal fishing on the Bosphorus. From Hurriyet:
The head of a fisheries association was allegedly shot by a gang of illegal fishermen in Istanbul for his stance against the illegal practice.
Ahmet Aslan lost his left eye in an armed attack while he was sitting in a teahouse in Istanbul's Rumelikavağı neighborhood, broadcaster NTV reported on its website.
"There is a gang with trawlers, and we are under constant threat," Aslan was quoted as saying.
Defne Koryürek, an activist who has been campaigning against trawler fishing for some time, said it was “horrifying” that illegal fishers were now bold enough to try and assassinate people.
Koryürek said the number of illegal fishing boats in Istanbul had increased from around 50 in the last year to nearly 300 this year.
In a helpful blog post on the subject, Istanbul-based Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink takes a look at the trouble on the Bosphorus and suggests that the problem goes deeper than just illegal fishing. From her blog, "Journalist in Turkey":
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!
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?