The coastal regions of Turkey, the Aegean and Black Sea areas in
particular, are famous for their seafood and millennia of fishing
Istanbul – and before that, Constantinople – has long depended on local
fishing in the Bosphorus for both its economic and nutritional needs.
At all hours of the day, fishermen can be seen lining the shore and the
Galata Bridge, which connects the old city (Sultanahmet) with the Galata area,
once home to Genoese traders.
Seafood restaurants serving freshly caught fish attract wealthier diners
and tourists, who typically eat their chosen fish accompanied by traditional
mezes and raki, Turkey’s hallmark anise-flavored alcohol.
People short on time or money flock to vendors who set up shop steps away
from the fishermen and sell simple grilled fish sandwiches, infusing the air
around the Galata Bridge and the Eminonu Dock with a distinct smoky
Despite the cultural and economic significance of fishing for the area,
many have expressed serious concerns regarding overfishing and damage to the
Traditionally, autumn was the season that brought fish migrations, with
huge numbers of fish moving from the colder waters of the Black Sea to the more
temperate Mediterranean. In recent years, the major migratory species harvested
in Istanbul – tuna and swordfish in particular – have drastically decreased in
numbers due to overfishing. Turkey’s management of the Bluefin tuna population
in the Mediterranean has earned the country criticism from the European
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature in Europe, 75 percent of fish
assessed in European waters qualify as overfished. Slow Food Istanbul and
Greenpeace Mediterranean have cooperated in running an awareness campaign to
save the bluefish (lufer) from a fate like that of the tuna. Recently, a legal
minimum length of 20 centimeters for catching bluefish has been set.
Environmental groups express concern that this minimum isn’t being heeded,
making it impossible for the species to recover.
Consumers have been encouraged to report restaurants and fish markets that
are selling bluefish less than 20 centimeters in length, and a provocative
public awareness campaign asks people, “How long is yours?”
Commercial trawlers are another target of criticism, as they tend to use
deep-water nets in the comparatively shallow Bosphorus, thus harming the
creatures living deeper down and interfering with breeding grounds.