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A story about the Turks fishing in Poti23.06.2009 | 17:51
This weekend, the Poti-Batumi main road was shut off for several hours. The traffic jam was made by the sailors who came ashore in Poti outraged with the excessive prices for the fishing licenses. Because of the high prices the right for the Georgians' preferable business lapsed to the Turkish companies. The situation in the field was commented upon by expert Ditrikh Muller.
The Poti sailors were "thrown" ashore to the Poti-Batumi main road by an urgent need. They have lost the right of fishing in the Black Sea and the lake of Paliastomi located near Poti. According to the protesters, they are unable to acquire the necessary license because of its excessive price. The fishermen have been left without money, and their wives and children have been left without bread and butter.
"Almost all of the fishing licenses are bought by the Turkish sailors, and we have got no money; so, we demand that the authorities should lower the license price for the Georgian fishermen", - one of the picketers at the main road explained. The policemen that appeared made the fishermen fold up their banners. However, the picketers managed to make the Poti authorities promise to lobby the settlement of the issue in parliament.
It was this February that the problem of the Turkish fishermen dominance in the Georgian waters emerged. The Georgians started complaining that the Turks are acting like poachers. According to IA Regnum referring to the Mteli Kvira (The Whole Week) newspaper, they are using the forbidden tackle. Besides, despite the liability to process two thirds of the fare in Georgia, they are carrying the fish directly to Turkey. In the opinion of the fishermen, the Black Sea protection inspection is turning a blind eye to the Turkish vessels violating the law.
Then, head of inspection assured that the Black Sea water area is thoroughly controlled day and night. In evidence of the fact, the Qoroglu Balik Chilik seine-boat flying the Turkish flag was detained in March. It was traced down in the territorial waters of Georgia, in the closed zone near the national park coast.
On May, 23, the Kutaisian Court delivered a judgment of conviction as to the Turkish vessel. On the 4th of June, the sailors paid a fine to the amount of 64 and a half thousand laris (39 thousand dollars) and indemnified against the environmental damage to the amount of 5 548 laris (3 thousand four hundred dollars). The Qoroglu Balik Chilik vessel was let free floating. However, this exemplary detention did not solve the problems of fishing.
As expert Ditrikh Muller told GeorgiaTimes, generally speaking, Georgia has got no big fishing vessels of its own, so it has to fall back upon the foreign help. "The local fleet in Poti has long since became bankrupt, the vessels having been partially sold to the Far East. It is there that the Georgian vessels are fishing", - the expert made an ironic remark.
It is fair to say that this spring, Georgia got an opportunity to fish without the Turkish seine-boats' help. According to Business Georgia, the Madai fishing company repaired 10 of 20 vessels. The repair works cost 440 thousand laris. Besides, the company bought three new seine-boats from Turkey for two and a half million dollars. This required borrowing money from the Millenium Challenges Fund under the state program called "Available credits" for a period of five years at the annual interest rate of 13.
In spring, Mikhail Saakashvili himself went to Poti to see the newly-bought ships. Director General of Madai Murman Kharabadze boastfully told the president of the country that there have been no fishing vessels of such capacity as Millenium Madai, Baraka Madai and Sif Madai in Georgia even in the Soviet years. Saakashvili stated that the fishing problems are going to be solved via further acquisition of ships. Chairman of the Fishing Union of Georgia Murad Miminoshvili took the opportunity to ask the president for a loan required to buy two more seine-boats.
The Georgian Madai Company bought a 10-year fishing license. However, this is rather an exception. It is usually the foreigners who win the fishing license auction sales. For some reason, it is the Turkish sailors, to whom the government is providing benefits. The revenue generated by license selling makes up a significant state income item. For the first time, in 2006, Georgia realized the Black Sea fishing licenses for 10 years, from 2006 till 2015. The auction sale replenished the treasury with another 8 million laris, IA New Region reported with reference to the Georgian Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection David Tkeshelashvili.
The government was rejoicing. However, the major part of the Georgian fishermen could not afford such a luxury as a fishing license. Their activity implies great expenses, for the local fishermen usually put to sea on the vessels leased from abroad. After the Tax Code was amended this January and the customs duties were increased the Georgian fishermen have to work nearly at a loss, as expert Ditrikh Muller points out.