Changes in Turkish law to push eco-friendly, sustainable fishing

Turkey's proposed changes to its fisheries law aim to stem marine pollution, crack down on poaching, and impose heavy penalties, said a ruling party lawmaker.

"This is a new disciplinary mechanism for sustainable fishing, fish resources, and protecting the environment," Ismail Emrah Karayel, a ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party lawmaker, told Anadolu Agency.

The proposed changes were made in coordination with the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry, Fisheries and Aquaculture Directorate, and Turkish Coast Guard, he said.

Speaking at an event discussing changes to the 1971 fisheries law, Karayel, a lawmaker from the central Turkish Kayseri province, said the changes will make the law more relevant and stiffen penalties for wrongdoing.

"First-time offenders found trawling or seine net fishing will have their licenses suspended for a month, followed by a three-month suspension for the second offense, and revoking the license of third-time offenders, he said.

Under the changes, users of illegal electric pulse, blast fishing, or chemical fishing will also face penalties, he added.

Light fishing -- using artificial light to attract fish -- in the Sea of Marmara, the Black Sea, and the straits of Istanbul and Canakkale will be prohibited, he added.

He also said illegal fishing -- which has grown exponentially in the straits, Black Sea and Marmara Sea -- will be held in check through electronic monitoring and other technological means.

The changes will also bar the introduction of non-native species into Turkish waters.

He went on to say that those who pollute water resources will face penalties.

"With this law, the number of fish will rise, and efforts will be made to protect breeding areas," he stressed.

"Turkey earns nearly $1 billion from exports of fishery products, while the country's imports are $150 million. That adds up to an $850 million net profit," he noted.

According to experts, there was a need to update Turkey's nearly half-century-old fisheries law taking into account technological advances, the needs of the sector, and scientific, environmental, economic, and social factors.

The proposed changes are set to go into effect on Jan. 1.

Protecting suppliers, consumers, the environment

"Overall, the proposed changes are based on protecting and sustaining natural resources. They are more eco-friendly and aim to protect both suppliers and consumers," said Mehmet Gokoglu, an expert on marine resources at Akdeniz University in Antalya, on the Turkish Mediterranean.

"The law was enforced to protect water resources, even though there were some shortcomings. The important thing is enforcement," he added.

To implement the law effectively and get positive results, he said, authorities need to know about fishing equipment, where and at what depth fishing should be done, and the effects of pollution and degradation.

"The new law will definitely help protect marine life and the environment, but it should be checked by experts," he added.

Gokoglu said changes in the 1970s-era law should have been done earlier.

"Freshwater resources and the coastal flora that serve as biological treatment have been polluted. Lakes, ponds, and marshes on the coasts have dried up. Also, the natural coastal structures of the seas are degraded," he said.

Waste from domestic, industrial, petroleum, agricultural and tourism sources have also harmed the marine environment.

"Our bays are deserted due to random anchors and chains. Seagrass beds face huge threats. There are no protected areas where fish can breed and fry can grow," he said.

He cited the introduction of the Gambusia -- also known as the Mosquitofish -- without any research to fight flies as a dangerous misstep.

"The Koprucay River, flowing from the Taurus Mountain to the Mediterranean Sea, is seen as one of the cleanest water resources in the world. It's normally impossible to pollute but, three years ago, mass fish deaths occurred in the river. Was the cause of these deaths found?" he asked, adding that such incidents should be prevented.

He added that data and science, not politicians, should decide when fishing is and is not allowed.

"Along with legal steps to protect seas from hazards such as waste, the next generation should get good environmental education starting in primary schools," he added.

Source: Anadolu Agency