Fish stocks in the seas surrounding Turkey risk being exhausted in the next three to four decades unless proper action is taken both by the state and by individuals, according to Greenpeace Turkey activists.
“The size of fish legally subject to fishing in Turkey is very small compared to the size at which a fish is able to reproduce,” Banu Dökmecibaşı, the Greenpeace representative responsible for sea campaigns, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a phone interview Wednesday. She said fish were caught while still immature, and thus have to reproduce at all.
As a result of the problems, Greenpeace has launched a new campaign to draw awareness to what they say is a critical issue.
Greenpeace launched the “How many centimeters is your [fish]?” campaign in November 2010, aiming to push the Agricultural Ministry to increase the legal fish size limit. They also commenced a signature campaign online after producing a study in cooperation with academics in the field that proved the legal fish size was too small to allow many fish to spawn at least once.
“We have developed a scale with our suggested fish sizes,” Dökmecibaşı said, adding that the ruler had measurements for just nine of the over 20 fish species caught in Turkey’s seas. “We have also presented our research and the scale to the [Turkish] minister for agriculture,” she said, adding that Minister Mehmet Mehdi Eker had vaguely promised he would ask the relevant ministry units to deal with the matter.
“We were not told there was any intention to conduct scientific studies into the matter, and we’ve not heard of any deadlines,” Dökmecibaşı said. In addition to fish sizes, other issues such as excessive or illegal fishing threaten fish populations in Turkey, especially large fish. “The monitoring of such violations by the ministry is not systematic, nor is it efficient.”
Greenpeace Turkey launched a hotline Tuesday to enable a direct connection with the Turkish Agriculture Ministry. The line has been put at the disposal of all Turkish citizens so they can ask the ministry what has been or is slated to be done regarding Greenpeace’s demands.
“We wanted to directly involve citizens in monitoring the ministry,” Dökmecibaşı said. Some 600 citizens used the hotline on Tuesday, the first day it was launched.
Greenpeace has received more than 250,000 signatures online by supporters of the campaign, a significant figure, according to Dökmecibaşı, who added that Greenpeace would soon give the agriculture minister the most updated figure in person.
She said they had not received any invitation for cooperation with the public administration on this issue, but added that they had been contacted by interested civil society organizations.
A counseling committee, connected to the Agriculture Ministry, gathers each June to discuss and decide on issues regarding fishing in Turkey.
The committee, however, is composed of fishermen and sector representatives but no academics, she said. “We believe there must also be a scientific committee, to conduct studies and analyze data on the current situation, as well as suggest further related policies.”
Another concern in Turkey is the very small number of people and departments working on fishing issues, said Dökmecibaşı, adding that the human capacity and number of experts must be increased for the ministry’s policy-making and monitoring to become more efficient.
About 90 percent of the world’s large-fish stocks and 40 percent of the world’s total fish stocks have already been exhausted and the rest risks being exhausted within the next 30 to 40 years, according to Dökmecibaşı, who cited the Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2009 report on the state of world fisheries and agriculture.