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Fight against Güllük fish farms continues

BODRUM - Doğan News Agency | 8/10/2009 12:00:00 AM | YAŞAR ANTER

The new location of Güllük fish farms is far from satisfying the environmentalists and local people who have been complaining about the pollution they cause. The fish farms have been moved from one side of the Güllük Gulf to the other, the environmentalists argue, but a state official assures that the farms will no longer cause pollution in the area

Fish farms located in Güllük Gulf in the popular resort town of Bodrum have moved, but the new location is not satisfactory to environmentalists and locals. While the co-leader of Turkey’s Green Party has said the issue would be taken to the European Court of Human Rights, or ECHR, a state official has argued that the fish farms that moved meet the legal criteria.

Until a short while ago, Güllük Gulf, a very popular location for tourism, water sports and yacht tours, had a total of 130 fish farms. Many locals argued that the pollution caused by those fish farms drove away tourists from the region, which is home to 30 five-star tourism facilities, over 130 smaller hotels and 30,000 summerhouses. The number of yachts that organize daily tours to the gulf has dropped from 80 to 15 in the last 10 years; while the number of bays open to tourism has fallen to 12 from 35.

The locals hoped that the situation would change after the Culture and Tourism Ministry issued a regulation in January, 2007 that banned the establishment of fish farms in inner seas. The fish farms started moving to open seas, but problems remained. Many argue that the move was from one side of the gulf to another, creating no solution.

Tourists visiting Torba and Güllük complained to the tour agencies that dead fish hit the shores of the tourism spots. Some tourists said fish cages, old nets and barrels left behind by the fish farms cause risks when swimming or performing water sports.

Licato Silvio, a tour guide, recalled that the world-renown Sunsail Water Sports Center left the area three years ago citing the pollution and risks created by the fish farms for the move. “I have been bringing in tourists for 14 years,” said Silvio. “In recent years, the tourists’ priority has become to stay at a facility that is far from the fish farms. Some facilities had to pay compensation to their visitors because of the pollution. Nowhere in the world is it allowed to establish fish farms right in front of or near tourism facilities.”

Sebahat Pehlivan, the manager of summerhouses in the area, thinks that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should step in to solve the issue. “This is murder, and I call Erdoğan to put an end to this,” she said. The nature, the ecology and most importantly human lives are at stake here.”

Pehlivan argued that the color and smell of the sea has changed, and the residents in the area can no longer swim in the gulf. The argument that the fish farms moved is just a deception. “The fish farms moved from one side of the gulf to another, now Zeytinlikuyu and Akbük will suffer,” she said.

The issue is also on the agenda of at least one political party. Bilge Contepe, the co-leader of the Green Party of Turkey, said the party had been fighting against the fish farms since they were first established. “Now the public outrage proves us right,” she said. “But the state preferred to ignore the protests and stick to plans prepared with little experience.”

Contepe agreed with the argument that the fish farms have just been moved from one side of the gulf to another. “This is not moving the fish farms offshore, this is a simple example of the mentality that destroyed one side of the gulf and has now set its eyes on the other side.”

[HH] ‘We will take the case to ECHR’

The fight against the fish farms in Güllük Gulf has secured the support of Germany’s Green party, the Contepe added. “Via the German Green Party, we will carry this issue to the ECHR, with scientific reports that prove the danger the farms pose to nature and human life. If the state will not put an end to this, I hope the international court will.”

Contepe argued that all plans implemented until today aimed to destroy the Güllük Gulf and no project has been prepared to save the gulf with the help of EU funds. “We are not against fish production, but it should be made in open seas, only after complete research regarding their risks is finished,” she said.

Muğla Provincial Environmental and Forestry Director Mehmet Şahin rejected the arguments of the locals and environmentalists. “Ninety-five percent of the fish farms in Güllük Gulf have been relocated, and the rest will move soon,” he said. “The new locations have been scientifically chosen as to not cause pollution.”

The director said everything has been done for the sector to survive and to also protect nature. But he refused that moving the farms offshore was ever mentioned. “The fish farms can still be in the gulf, but they must be at a location where they will cause no pollution,” said Şahin.

[HH] New rules:

According to the new regulations, fish farms in Güllük Gulf can be located off the Tahtakoz and Kazıklı shores, and Salih Island, Yılan Island and İkiz Island. According to the new regulations, which will be applied to areas with eutrophication risk and closed bays and gulfs, no fish farms can be established in natural or archeological preservation sites, which will be declared by the Culture and Tourism Ministry. The area that a fish farm can be established should be 30 meters deep, should be at least 1,100 meters away from the shore and the current in the region should be at least 0.1 meters per second.

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