Danger of extinction of endemic pearl mullets in Van Lake, Turkey


Found only in Lake Van, the pearl mullet has a maximum lifespan of seven years and reaches reproductive maturity around three years of age. The fish form large schools, and migrate to the rivers that empty into Lake Van from early April to late July to spawn. Reproduction begins two weeks after the fish enter the rivers, and continues for two months. The pearl mullet is indigenous to Lake Van and critically endangered due to agricultural activities (especially surface or flood irrigation) and overfishing. Although fishing is banned during the breeding season (between April and July), they are still caught by simple traps set in rivers and streams. Using and sharing fresh water from the rivers for agriculture/irrigation and fish farming is a particularly contentious issue, leading to conflict.

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Basic Data
NameDanger of extinction of endemic pearl mullets in Van Lake, Turkey
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific Commodities
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsOther than natural causes, fish deaths occur mainly due to three different reasons: Overfishing Illegal fishing during the breeding season, and Using fresh water resources in riverbeds vital for the fish to spawn for agriculture and irrigation, and destroying breeding areas with dikes and dams.

Type of PopulationRural
Start Date05/2000
Relevant government actorsDistrict Governorship of Muradiye, Van Governorship;, Van Provincial Directorate of Agriculture;, th Provincial Directorate of State Hydraulic Works;, Muradiye Irrigation Union
International and Financial InstitutionsGlobal Environment Facility (GEF) from United States of America
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from United States of America
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersUNDP-GEF/Small Grants Programme and farmers
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Potential: Soil contamination, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherLoss of income
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Development of Alternatives- Villagers were using surface (wild) irrigation methods. Damages caused by use of water were explained to the villagers within the context of the carried out study. Irrigation by sprinkling water and drip irrigation methods were encouraged.

- Creative activities were organized on water right of fishes.

Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The construction of hydroelectric power plants on rivers and streams is widely debated today, but this was not the case in 2000. Therefore the ecological water sharing model was not a concept known to the public. The project entitled 'Developing Alternative Income Sources for Sustainable Pearl Mullet Fishing in Lake Van' (UNDP-GEF/SGP) was implemented to prevent the species from going extinct. With this study, the ecological water sharing model was developed and applied for the first time in Turkey. Thanks to the water sharing system, fish deaths have not occurred in the rivers around Lake Van during the pearl mullet's breeding migration since 2000. Yet the species is still endangered, due to overfishing and illegal fishing.
Sources and Materials

Waterwiki article: Turkey - Sustainable Fishing and Consumption of Pearl Mullet
[click to view]

Selcuk Secer, Sertel Secer, 2007 Anadolu’nun Ozgun Hayvanlari: Inci Kefali (cilt78)/Sayi4/aoh.pdf
[click to view]

M. SARI, M. KADIOGLU, M. ARABACI, A. ERTAN. Ecological sharing of water for healthy management of fisheries and irrigation under drought conditions in Bend-i Mahi river, Van, Turkey.

Other CommentsIt is not possible to refer to a 'project' leading to conflict as described in this form. Mentioned above are carried out to conserve pearl mullet of Van Lake from extinction due to overfishing and wrong irrigation techniques. Categories chosen under the title 'impacts of the project' show the environmental problems such as overfishing and wrong irrigation techniques. Under the title 'current situation of the project development' it is mentioned that fishing and irrigation activities were stopped through environmental protection activities.
Meta Information
ContributorMustafa Sari
Last update08/04/2014