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Mustafa Sari

Mustafa Sari was born to illiterate farmers who raised their six children near the Black Sea. As a child he excelled in his studies, and an interest in science earned him entrance into Ankara University. There he was influenced by the emerging field of sustainable fishery management. The model he developed for Lake Van was accepted as a blueprint by the Ministry of Food Agriculture and Livestock for the management of all freshwater fisheries in Turkey. In 2002, his work was recognized by UNDP as one of the World’s Best Practices, and in 2004 he was awarded an Ashoka Fellowship. In 2011 he received the Science Award of the Year, from WBUMSF in Turkey.

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Doga Gözcüleri Dernegi (Nature Observers' Society)
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Non-profit Social Enterprise
Future of Enterprise; Sustainable Development; Ocean
Areas of Impact
Eurasia, Türkiye

Doga Gözcüleri Dernegi (Nature Observers' Society)

Few scientific studies had been conducted on Lake Van fish prior to Mustafa Sari’s work, which determined the levels of fishing that could be sustainably harvested. In 1997, he estimated the lake contained approximately 43,000 tons of fish, of which no more than 8,500 tons could be annually fished to maintain sustainability. However, since 1987 over 10,000 tons a year were harvested, about 90% of which occurred during the spawning period. Despite the statistics and warnings about stock depletion, local fishermen were not willing to change their practices and governmental regulators were indifferent. Using scientific data, Mustafa tried to convince the government to take action by implementing fishing bans and a management programme, but after several years of bureaucratic wrangling, he realized a different approach was needed.

Together with two environmental experts, Mustafa framed a strategy for engaging a wider group of stakeholders, including fishermen and wholesalers. They began a national campaign to raise awareness of the depletion of Lake Van fish, and through Doga Gözcüleri Dernegi (Nature Observers' Society) the campaign attempts to inform rather than blame those involved. It helps villagers recognize the problems they face and the solutions that can help them all save money and time. For example, in coordination with the University of Van, Mustafa set up a facility for satellite imagery, providing aerial photographs to offer fishermen new perspectives on issues like factory emissions that pollute the lake, significantly diminishing fish populations over a 10-year period.

Mustafa succeeded in applying scientific research tools to fishery management, while bringing together potentially conflicting views and interests of fishermen, local government and environmental NGOs. Since 1996, as a result of these efforts including establishing the Fisheries Faculty for education in Van, fish in Lake Van are larger in size than several years ago, and fishermen have experienced a three-fold increase in revenues since adopting sustainable practices.


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