x0x BENEATH THE WAVES AT THE FISH MUSSEUM
- x0x BENEATH THE WAVES AT THE FISH MUSSEUM
By Can Kiziltan
It is difficult to imagine the sea without fish or fish without the
sea, yet although Istanbul is a city so intertwined with the sea, fish
are becoming increasingly scarce. You might not think so to look at
the brightly lit fishmong'sgl stalls arrayed with gleaming bluefish,
bonito, gilthead bream, sea bass, whiting, and turbot in Balikpazari,
Kadikoy, Besiktas, Beykoz, Anadolu Kavagi, Rumeli Kavagi and Kumkapi.
Anglers, however, are well aware of the true state of affairs, and at
the fisherm'ssg shelter in Kocamustafapasa the mood is sad.Miserably
they sit together, withdrawn from the noisy life of the great city
around them, thinking only of the sea, in which they still rest their
hopes. Their little close-knit community shares everything, including
the geese, Tokat hens, coots and wild ducks which they feed.Since the
1960s one of their number, Haydar Deniz, has been collecting fish
specimens. At first he kept the jamjars of preservation fluid at home,
but as the collection grew he moved it to the shelter.
Four of the storerooms were joined to form space for the specimens,
which now fill the wall shelves.
Among the fish to be seen here were many we had never heard of, never
mind seen: thin-lipped grey mullet, kelebekhorozbina (a species of
blenny, Blennius ocellaris), ribbon fish (Cepola rubescens), torpedo
fish (Torpedo marmorata), sand-smelt (Atherina hepsetus), ombrine
(Umbrina cirrosa), and uzgunbaligi (Callionymus lyra). The specimens
have all been caught in the Marmara, Black Sea, Aegean or
With the addition of seashells, starfish, lanterns, communications
equipment, ropes exhibiting different fisherm'sng knots, and even
special ashtrays which conceal the glow of the burning cigarette, the
room has been transformed into a small but fascinating museum. Any
pride that Haydar Deniz might have felt at organising the museum
singlehandedly is overshadowed by his sorrow at the decline of sea
life over the past few decades.
He recalls when pink and red coral could be seen in the Marmara Sea
off Tuzla east of Istanbul; when huge sea bream could be caught with a
type of rod known as kasik; when shoals of two-banded bream, chub
mackerel, horse mackerel, mackerel and sword fish were to be found in
the sea around Istanbul's islands; and when red mullet, tub gurnard
and turbot were commonly found inshore at Florya.
Memories of that bygone abundance is indeed enough to bring tears to
the eyes of any fisherman.
Showing us a jar containing a horse mackerel the size of a bonito,
Haydar Deniz told us that following the earthquake of 17 August 1999,
fish that had not been seen in the Marmara Sea for years reappeared:
chub mackerel, gar-fish and gilthead bream. The theory is that the
fissure created in the sea bed by the earthquake may have provided a
new and safe habitat for these species.
For over ten years now he has been searching in vain for a larger and
more suitable building to house the museum, but several promises from
people he has approached have so far come to nothing.
But his primary concern is still to enlarge the collection. All
donations of fishing equipment that their owners no longer use are
gratefully accepted, and he asks that fishmen all over Turkey get in
touch with him when specimens of rare fish turn up in their nets.
Increasing awareness among fishermen of marine life and the threats to
its survival is one of Haydar Deniz's aims, and he hopes that his Fish
Museum, modest as it is, has a contribution to make. The museum does
not even possess a sign, but if you go to the district of
Kocamustafapasa on the shores of the Marmara Sea a few kilometres west
of Topkapi Palace, you can ask for the fisherm'ses shelter and see the
fascinating collection here.
* Can Kiziltan is a freelance writer .