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Trawlers Ask Ministry to Lift Ban on No Fish Zone in Turkish Waters. Endangered Monk Seals, Sea Turtles and Fish Stocks at Risk


To members of marine mammal and conservation groups around the globe.

We urgently need your help to keep current protected no trawling zones intact on the Turkish coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Members of SAD-AFAG (Underwater Research Society – Mediterranean Monk Seal Research Group) and Fisheries Biologists of the Middle East Technical University - Institute of Marine Sciences have been working to keep a protection zone of 16 miles of Turkish coast free from industrial fishing. This region, the Cilician Basin, lies in the northeastern part of the Mediterranean, between Cyprus and the Turkish mainland. The protection zone is essential for the survival and recovery of dwindling fish stocks and crucial to the protection of the number one most endangered species of seal (Monachus monachus), some of whose last remaining breeding caves exist in this area. It is also an important breeding area for 2 species of endangered sea turtle (Caretta caretta and Chelonia mydas).

The protection zone is also essential to the livelihoods of local small scale artisanal fishermen, who are already under strain due to illegal fishing and low fish stocks. Recently, local trawlers have petitioned the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to lift the ban on trawling and industrial fishing within this zone. We are fearful that the Ministry will side with the trawlers on this issue. It is therefore crucial that we initiate international pressure with your letters of concern addressed directly to the Ministry. If the Ministry sides with the commercial fishermen and the ban is lifted it will prove devastating for the health of the Cilician Basin. This irresponsible behavior by the commercial fishermen, who are clearly only thinking of a possible short term profit, demonstrates that they are completely unconcerned for the future of their own livelihoods (which cannot continue in this manner) or the future of their environment and subsequently their own children and communities. Instead of lifting industrial no fish zones the Ministry should be working to improve the enforcement and guarding of current protected zones and work to enlarge the protected area rather than reduce it.

Within the last fifteen years the area has been heavily exploited by industrial fishing. The result s of numerous fisheries surveys show that catch per unit effort for commercial fish species has been drastically reduced by at least ten fold. Due to overfishing, the species composition has changed so that valuable commercial fish species have been replaced by small size low-value "trash" fish. Now the ecosystem of this region as it exists is in a fragile state and will surely collapse if the current protection laws are nullified. The fisheries in this region have never been highly productive and are only able to support small scale fishing.

The monk seals, sea turtles, and local artisanal fishermen face starvation due to lack of enforcement of existing protection zones and illegal fishing by the trawlers. Apart from depleting fish stocks, the bottom trawlers' nets uproot Posidonia, an endemic sea grass which is the key species for the entire ecosystem and also upon which the sea turtles feed, endangering both the turtles and the grasses.

It is essential to keep this area free from commercial fishing if these species are to have any chance of survival. Please help the sea and local people who make their livings from the sea to survive by faxing or posting letters to the following address by DECEMBER 16! THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. WE NEED YOUR HELP IMMEDIATELY! THANK YOU!

(Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs General Directorate of Protection and Control)
Akay Cad. No 1

Fax +90 312 418 6318

For further information, please contact:

Ali Cemal Gücü
Middle East Technical University
Institute of Marine Sciences
P.O. Box 28
Erdemli 33731 Icel

Tel: +90 324 521 3434
Fax: +90 324 521 2327