Iraqi Fishermen Protest as Government Shuts Down Fish Farms, Threatening Livelihoods
In a move met with vehement opposition, Iraqi authorities have initiated the closure of approximately 1,500 fish farms in the Daqooq district of Kirkuk, eliciting protests from local fishermen who fear the devastating impact on their livelihoods.
The decision, part of the Iraqi government's broader strategy to address the country's depleted water resources, involves drying up fish farms that rely on fresh groundwater. Fishermen in the Daqooq district, a region home to 3,100 fish farms specializing in carp production for the popular Iraqi dish Masgouf, have expressed concerns over the imminent loss of jobs.
Protestors on the scene reported witnessing the destruction of fish farms with live fish still inside, as the Iraqi army guarded the local authorities employing power shovels for the closures. One anonymous protestor emphasized the potential unemployment crisis, urging Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al-Sudani and other officials to reconsider the decision, emphasizing its adverse effects on the local population.
Many fish farm workers in the Daqooq district are not public servants, relying solely on monthly revenues from fish production. The government's decision, implemented since May, has already led to the closure of half of Iraq's 5,000 "unlicensed" farms, drastically reducing annual fish production from one million tonnes to 190,000 tonnes.
Iraq, classified by the United Nations as the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change, faces exacerbated challenges due to reduced water flows and increased salinity, partly attributed to upstream dam constructions. Iraqi authorities have blamed neighboring countries Iran and Turkey for these dam projects, further straining relations.
The dire consequences of climate change are already evident in the southern Maysan province, where high salinity has resulted in the death of thousands of fish. As tensions rise in Daqooq, the fishermen continue to demand a review of the government's decision, emphasizing the urgency of addressing both environmental concerns and the livelihoods of the local population.