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26.08.2008

Fish farms under fire with pollution claims

One of the most important tourism spots in the country is suffering heavy pollution caused by multiple factors, led by fish farms in the area. Yachts are not entering the Güllük Bay in Muğla now, as pollution is making it almost impossible for tourists to swim


Fish farms are being blamed for polluting the Güllük bay of Muğla and driving away tourists in one of the most important tourist centers in Turkey. Also, observers report that pollution caused by fish farms is, in fact, killing fish. At the same time cows, rather than paying tourists, are seen wading into the bay from nearby farms. Further, the bay area has turned into small cesspools after wire cages, cans and fishing nets have been discarded in the sea. Today, because of this pollution, yachts from the Blue Cruise line have to turn back before entering the bays and tourists no longer swim in the bays, reports the Doğan news agency.

Currently, a controversial plan, proposed in the Environmental Evaluation Report (ÇED), calls for the fish farms to be relocated along the coast.

However, Ayhan Karahan, Spokesman for the Citizen Initiative and Patriotic Front, is among those seeking to prevent this move. "The bays, where tourists once swam and boats anchored, have been turned into cesspools," said Karahan. "Thousands of fish continue to die in the coves. Next week we are going to collect evidence in the presence of a Notary and sue to stop the new plan by the Ministry to move the farms."

Karahan notes that more than 130 fish farms, established 10 years ago along the seaside between Akbük town in Didim district of Aydın and Kıyıkışlak village in Milas district of Muğla, have turned the once-glamorous coves of Güllük Bay into unused and polluted areas.

"Forty out of 50 coves where farms are now located are currently out of use. Since there is a lot of pollution and, also, farms have closed the entrances of some coves, so local vacationers and tourists can no longer swim in the Kaynar, Güvercinlik, Zeytinli Ada, Ziraat Adası, Çam, Pınar and Tavşan bays. Bays are full of cages, cans, fishnets, and solid wastes from the farms," said Karahan.

People dealing with tourism also react to farms

Ateş Akbaba, a 32-year-old tour guide who brings Danish tourists to Çam Bay, said, "In our tours with yachts, our visitors were going to Gökova every year. This year, they wanted to visit the northern part of the island, the Güllük Bay.  I have seen how the gleaming bays, visited by Blue Cruises, have been turned into hell because of the farms."

Further, Akbaba said he is unable to answer tourists' questions about the pollution. "I couldn't find a single word to say when I saw cows in Çam Bay where tourists once swam and yachts had anchored."

Emphasizing that fisheries were important but, at the same time, the area's nature should not be destroyed, Akbaba said: "Is it right to sacrifice our beauty for the sake of one sector to gain a little? We had to abort the Blue Cruise and turn back. We are ashamed for our tourists."

Danish tourists, while returning to Bodrum without swimming, did see children picking fish meal bags and barrels from out of the bay.

Fishermen also suffering

Ahmet Koyunbaba, a 46-year-old fisherman who has been fishing in the area for 35 years, said those living in the area had been previously warned about possible damages the farms could cause to yachting tourism and Blue Cruise lines.

"Forty of 50 farms in Güllük Bay turned into cesspools due to the farms. Also, the number of families employed by the fisheries decreased from about 900s to the 100s¸ Koyunbaba said. "Now, we can't even see one meter down into the sea, while before we were able to see down 20 meters. Neither tourists nor the local public can swim in the region where fish begin to die and the bay beds have been turned into cesspools full of ooze and mud. Until 10 years ago, each year about 4,000 local and foreign yachts were anchoring in the Güllük Bay and providing important revenue for the region. Currently, yachts avoid the Güllük Bay and tours removed the region from their tour maps. Both fish and fisheries are dead."

Thousands of fish died

As a result of complaints from tourism companies, members of the Bodrum Citizens Initiative made an analysis in the region and were amazed at what they saw.

Karahan said they have observed new deaths in fish farms and that these should be researched. "Fifteen years ago, while fish farms were being established in the bay, we were told that there would be fish deaths. This has happened," he said. "Different reasons were suggested when about 4 million fish died at the beginning of this year. Currently, while there are no explanations as to why fish deaths occur, there are also no brooks that carry industrial wastes into the area. We have witnessed the worst example of destroying a heaven as a result of unplanned building and for the sake of income. We have observed that fish are dying."

The District Governor: "We are not aware of the fish deaths"

Bahattin Atçı, the District Governor, who only learned about recent fish deaths from journalists, said, "We knew that deaths occurring six months ago had stopped. Fish deaths have not occurred in the above-named region. But I will instantly charge the authorities of District Directorate of Agriculture in order to continue this case."