16 April 2014, Wednesday
Today's Zaman

Turkey learns to share seas with neighbors

10 January 2008, Thursday /ERCAN YAVUZ
Exasperated over rising tensions with its neighbors due to conflicts over the use of common fishing areas, Turkey has devised projects concerning the joint utilization of marine resources and has scheduled meetings with the food and agriculture ministers of Black and Mediterranean sea countries in attempt to solve the escalating problems.
While diplomatic relations between Turkey and Greece are friendlier than they have ever been in the past, Turkish and Greek fishermen have recently confronted each other, disagreeing over who will hunt the abundant flocks of gilt head bream near the Kardak Islands, an uninhabited area which brought Turkey and Greece to the brink of war in the last decade. As Turkish and Greek fishing boats rush to the area to get a share of the gilt head bream moving to the region, the coast guards of both countries come into frequent confrontation. Currently, these breams are sold at YTL 20 per kilogram in the Turkish fishing market, encouraging more and more fishing boats to head toward the region. However, the Turkish and Greek foreign ministries have ordered their coast guards not to raise tensions by detaining fishermen.

The competition between Turkish and Greek fishermen for gilt head bream near the Kardak Islands has led to awkward situations. Turkish fishing boats, arguing that these islands belong to Turkey, urge the Turkish coast guard to expel Greek fishing boats from the islands while their Greek counterparts reciprocate. However, the Turkish and Greek coast guards prefer not to involve themselves in this fishing competition. Aware of the fact that gilt head bream tend to be around the Kardak Islands between Nov. 30 and Jan. 15, the coast guards just wait for the period to end. There are also reports that the indifference of the coast guards in this issue has led Turkish and Greek fishermen to arrive at a de facto compromise: sharing the islands, which consist of two pieces. The bigger island is taken by Turkish boats while the smaller one is left to the Greeks.

Turbot crisis with Ukraine

As the row over gilt head bream continues in the Aegean Sea, another conflict has broken out in the Black sea over turbot. Turkish and Ukrainian fishermen, who last year competed for anchovy, led to a confrontation of the two countries' coast guards in connection with turbot fishing. As two Turkish fishing boats netted about five tons of turbot in Ukrainian territorial waters, tension rose between the two countries, which eventually led to the involvement of the countries' foreign ministries in the issue. Currently, diplomatic relations between the two are on considerably friendlier terms. However, Russian fishermen have joined Ukrainian fishermen, complicating the issue further.

In an effort to eliminate further confrontation, the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has developed two projects. The ministry is planning to bring Black Sea countries together in İstanbul for a conference on aquaculture and fishing. The conference, to be held in February, is expected to put an end to conflicts between fishermen in the Black Sea. Turkey, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia are expected to attend the conference, at the end of which a joint declaration on aquaculture and fishing will be issued. The Turkish Foreign Ministry supports both initiatives.

While there is no prominent conflict concerning fishing in the Mediterranean Sea thanks to previously signed agreements, Turkey and Greek frequently confront each other mostly because of the failure of the Flight Information Region (FIT) line set in the Aegean Sea to solve problems between the two countries concerning territorial waters. Turkey is planning to convene a meeting of ministers of agriculture and food from Mediterranean countries in May and believes that this meeting could contribute to the solution of the problem. The top agenda item of this meeting will be the environmental impact of aquaculture in the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, preparations for creating a common database will be launched.

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