Fishermen hunt veined rapa whelks in Bosphorus to export to Far East
Every day, fishermen are going out fishing in the Bosphorus to hunt veined rapa whelks, large sea snails that have been touted widely as an antidote to cancer and are popular in Far Eastern countries.
Taner Yıldız, an academic from Istanbul University, told daily Hürriyet that the rapa whelks were significantly valuable, saying their export market value is around $20 million.
According to various scientific articles, the veined rapa whelks, currently inhibiting the seabed of the Marmara and Black seas, were first detected in the region in 1953.
The veined rapa whelks native is the Sea of Japan. Academics believe they arrived in the Bosphorus over the years after having hanged on the tanks of ships coming from the Far East.
They eventually settled in the Bosphorus, where they encountered other species that were threatening them, and the Black Sea after reproducing over the decades.
Not as popular as in Turkey, fishermen began catching the fish to export them where they are more appreciated: The Far East.
Besides being a favorable food in the cuisine, the shells of the fish are also used in the cosmetics sector.
Also, if kept in deep-freezers, the shelf lives of the fish are around 540 days.
“Normally these sea creatures are not supposed to exist in the Bosphorus, Yıldız noted, adding that they fast reproduced over the half century.
According to the academic, soon after arriving in the Bosphorus on ships, the veined rapa whelks also swam towards the Black Sea with the help of the sea flows and increased the population there rapidly.
“In the beginning of the 1980s, the Japanese saw that the population of the veined rapa whelks in the Sea of Japan decreased. So, they started studying the reasons behind it,” said the academic.
It was then the exports began when the studies led to the discovery that the sea snails had put down their roots in the Bosphorus.
“The buyers of the veined rapa whelks are ready,” he added.
The Turkish Coast Guard, of course, monitor every fishing vessels in the region, however there is no fine or penalty for snail hunting.
The fishermen do not use fishing nets or any other devices to hunt the creatures.
“They dive into the water, get the veined rapa whelks by hand or hoses and collect them in sacks. This kind of fishing does not harm the ecosystem,” said Yıldız.