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Türkiye’s blowfish hunters make fortune killing invasive species

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Turkish anglers have made over TL 164,000 ($8,980) since the beginning of the year by catching the invasive blowfish and pufferfish that are threatening the country’s waters, particularly in the Mediterranean and the Aegean.

The fishermen were paid for catching over 16,024 of the invasive species, most of them coming from southwestern Antalya, as part of a program run by the Agriculture Ministry and local agriculture directorate.

In their fight against the invasive species that pose a threat to the ecosystem, fisheries and human health in the Mediterranean and Aegean, the Agriculture Ministry continues to receive overwhelming support from the local fishing community.

By hunting down these dangerous fish, in accordance with the criteria determined by the ministry, they are playing an important role in upholding Türkiye’s biodiversity and human safety.

In Antalya alone, local fishermen were paid TL 75,000 for catching over 8,954 puffer fish.

They are also waging a war against the poisonous blowfish. This invasive species contains a deadly marine toxin, tetrodotoxin, which is reportedly more potent than cyanide.

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The Provincial Directorate of Agriculture purchases these poisonous blowfish at 14 designated locations in Antalya.

Purchases are made in the form of the tail or the fish as a whole. The fishermen are paid TL 12.5 for the Lagocephalus sceleratus species and TL 5 each for the other 7 small species.

Antalya Agriculture and Forestry Directorate Deputy Director Asım Karabulut said that there was a quota of 1.2 million puffer fish this year and so far 16,000 have been caught.

“The process will continue until Dec. 31. The fishing ban in the summer period is because the fish goes deeper due to the increase in air temperature. We think the number of catches will increase in the coming months,” he said.

He noted that fishermen with licensed vessels benefit from the purchase. Amateur anglers, however, are forbidden from bringing their catch onshore.

Karabulut said the invasive species suppress the reproduction of other local species in its environment.

He dismissed that the toxin from puffer fish would be used by the pharmaceutical industry.

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“The tetrodotoxin in puffer fish is considered very dangerous. There have been rumors that it can be used in the pharmaceutical industry, but we have seen no interest from them. So, we destroy the puffer fish or its tail. It is not possible to use it in any sub-industry or other industrial sector,” he said.

Karabulut added that there was a decrease in the number of puffer fish compared to the last two years.

“We have observed that the number of puffer fish in the environment has decreased. The number of blowfish, especially in large species, has also decreased,” he said.

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