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Tons of illegally caught pearl mullet fish confiscated near Van

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 6/2/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Teams from the Van Gendarmerie Command's Environmental Protection Unit confiscated 32.5 tons of illegally caught pearl mullet in 12 busts Monday night.

Teams from the Van Gendarmerie Command’s Environmental Protection Unit confiscated 32.5 tons of illegally caught pearl mullet in 12 busts Monday night.

The endemic fish species, found only in eastern Turkey’s Lake Van, is protected from illegal fishing, but the penalties are not enough to serve as a deterrent, according to pearl-mullet expert Professor Mustafa Sarı.

“When your load is worth 10,000 Turkish Liras and the fine is [around] 1,500 liras, people would do this over and over again,” Sarı told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

According to the professor, the local gendarmerie is making continual efforts on both land and water to prevent illegal fishing of the pearl mullet. Though the confiscation of more than 32 tons of fish at 12 different locations is a serious issue, he said, there has been a considerable decrease compared to the late 1990s, when a single raid netted 80 tons of illegally caught pearl mullet.

Monday’s busts resulted in total fines amounting to 24,132 liras, which Sarı said is close to the market value of 32,500 liras but not a deterrent because the fines are administrative ones. People who are fined face no trouble when they do not pay, he said, adding that such fines must be like traffic fines, which have practical consequences when not paid.

An even bigger issue, according to the professor, is that the fines do not vary with the magnitude of the crime. If a fisherman is found with 5 kilograms of illegally caught fish, he would be fined 723 liras, an amount that would be doubled if the offense is committed again within two years, Sarı said. “However, I could load my truck with 20 tons of fish, and I would be fined the same amount,” he said, adding that local activists have lobbying for years to close this gap in the law governing aquaculture resources.

[HH] Festival for pearl mullet

The Pearl Mullet Migration Culture and Arts Festival will be held June 4 to 11 at Erciş Fish Wear to commemorate the mullet’s annual swim upstream at the beginning of summer to lay its eggs due to the salty and alkaline character of Lake Van. The event seeks to raise awareness about this unique fish, which is an important asset for the regional economy, and will feature competitions, field trips, picnics and musical events, among other activities.

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