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Slow Fish - Good, Clean and Fair Fish

The Cook, The Fisher, The Policy Maker


Slow Food Istanbul has successfully lobbied for an increased catch size of one of the city’s most loved fish the lüfer, also known as bluefish, which was heading towards extinction due to juvenile fishing. Leading the “Don't Let the Lüfer Go Extinct!” campaign with Greenpeace Mediterranean, local Slow Food members have been working with fishing cooperatives, chefs and fishmongers to encourage saying no to undersized fish.

“Our campaign started all because of an article that appeared in a newspaper late in 2009, which claimed that lüfer, our beloved fish, would be extinct within 3 years if no precautionary measures were to be taken,” exlained Defne Koryurke, Slow Food Istanbul leader. “We looked into the matter, talked to the fishermen, to the academicians and realized it really was happening that fast.”

Unsustainable fishing practices had been a problem since 2002 when an important fishing code changed that had previously made a distinction between small lüfer (10-15cm), which in Turkey are called cinekop
, and mature lüfer (over 24 cm). Not only was cinekop taken out of the book of codes, the minimum length for fished lüfer was reduced to just 14cm which had drastic consequences for the species’ reproduction.

“Bluefish are found throughout the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, but the lüfer that migrates from the Black Sea to the Marmara and back again is unique,” explained Defne. “Loved for its flavor, the lüfer was known as a ‘democratic’ fish as anyone with a line and hook could catch a good sized fish to feed their family. This lead to the species becoming an important part of Istanbul folklore, with literature, poems and songs talking about it, the fishers and its culinary preparations."

Guided by local fishermen who understand the long-term troubles of catching undersized lüfer, Slow Food Istanbul gathered a group including chefs and fishmongers to rally public support for the campaign. Thousands of signatures were quickly collected on a petition, the fish markets were visited regularly to check the situation and publicity started appearing all around the city. The faces of some of the city’s top chefs appeared on posters urging shoppers to say no to eating lüfer less than 24cm-long and stickers appeared in the windows of supporting restaurants.

luferposter2 luferlogo 

With increasing media exposure, the Ministry organized a forum on fisheries policies in June this year where Slow Food participated in a lively debate about the lüfers catch size with small-scale and industrial fishers and policy makers. Finally, last week, seventeen months after starting the campaign in April 2010, the Ministry of Agriculture announced the increase of the minimum catch size to 20 cm – a very significant step up from 14cm towards the goal of 24cm.

“We never actually thought that the Ministry would take this action,” said Defne. “We’re thrilled with the result and it just shows that if we all join together – fisher, chefs, consumers - with the support of organizations like Slow Food, great success can be had on protecting the health of local fish populations.”

Defne Koryürek
Slow Food Fikir Sahibi Damakla, Istanbul 

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