Pearl mullets’ journey begins in Turkey's Van

Pearl mullets’ journey begins in Turkey's Van

VAN – Anadolu Agency
Pearl mullets’ journey begins in Turkeys Van

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Spring in the eastern province of Van once again heralds the migration of the pearl mullet, an endemic fish species found only in Van Lake. The pearl mullet is a species that lives in the highly carbonated waters of Van Lake, but it cannot reproduce there because of the salinity of the water, so it migrates through the lake’s tributaries to spawn.

Nature Observers Association head Prof. Mustafa Sarı from Yüzüncü Yıl University (TTU) has observed the migration of pearl mullets in an area known as “Fish Bend” near the 10th kilometer of the Erciş-Van highway. 

Sarı said they witnessed this magnificent event around Van Lake every spring. 

“Although pearl mullets live in this lake, they migrate to tributaries in mass groups in the spring. The salty and carbonated water of the lake does not allow this fish to reproduce. This is why pearl mullets empty the lake when the water reaches 12-13 centigrade and rush to tributaries. In order to reproduce and survive, they migrate upstream through the tributaries. They know that the tributaries are safe and clean; there are no humans there so they can lay their eggs there. In this way, they can survive.” 

Sarı said at the first stage of the migration the fish wait in the mouth of the tributary for some time. “They die if they suddenly transit from salty water to fresh water. They go to the tributary after balancing the salt-iodine balance. During this waiting process, they stop eating. They consume all their energy by traveling through the tributary. This is not the only difficulty; they have many handicaps in the natural environment.

There is a 70-80-meter-high mini waterfall here. Pearl mullets try to overcome these obstacles. The pearl mullet is approximately 20 centimeters in length. They try to jump four times higher than their size. All pearl mullets are here. Female ones will lay eggs, the male ones will follow them to leave milt and then baby fish will be born in a week. They will return to Van Lake within a month.” 

Important for local ecosystem 

Sarı said the pearl mullets were like a locomotive for the lake and its surroundings, adding their presence was very important for the local ecosystem. 

“Seagulls are now waiting for pearl mullets to feed to their newly born chicks. Water snakes, frogs and turtles in the region are waiting for them, too. Even foxes, crows and Van cats are waiting for them. Pearl mullets know how to fight against them but there is also the danger of illegal fish hunters. They make debts throughout the year without working; they wait for the pearl mullets to hunt and sell them… This is what the pearl mullets are not used to. Despite all the struggles for years, the illegal fishing of pearl mullets continues.” 

Sarı said they put great effort into preventing the illegal fishing of pearl mullets, highlighting the importance of those efforts. 

“They are the heart of this region. If they die out, many disasters will follow,” he said, adding, “We hope the pearl mullet will overcome this hard year.”