What does this mean, exactly?
Surrounded by water, Istanbul’s geography has played a significant role in the city’s history, so much so that it has become part of its identity. Along with the importance of water, fish have played just as major a role. Fish and fishing appear time and time again in Istanbul literature, poetry, art and, of course, gastronomy. Indeed, they were featured prominently in Ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. Still today, visitors to Istanbul are encouraged to take advantage of the many fish dishes from fine dining to Galata’s balık ekmek (fish sandwich).
Naturally, the consumption of fish became a matter of public memory and identity. However, by the early 2000s Istanbul had grown – exponentially – both in population and geography. Fishing regulations were few and far in between and rarely enforced, if at all. What were once abundant and rich waters, were hosting endangered species. But this story is not new, nor is it unique to Turkey.
That said, by 2012 a new set of regulations were imposed banning any commercial fishing between April 1st and September 1st every year. along with the help of organizations such as Defne Koyürek’s “Lüfer Koruma Timi” (Blue Fish Protection Team) and others like “Seninki Kaç Santim?” (How long is yours?). Such groups have raised awareness of the act of fishing immature lüfer (blue fish).
So that as of September 1st, fishing season has started up again, which means that İstanbullus can get there pick of fresh catches. Like with any seasonal foods, some fish are better caught (and eaten) at specific times of the year. Luckily, our favourite archaeologist pointed us to this very helpful infographic.
Now that we know when to be eating these delicacies, choosing them can be a little overwhelming. And, while we could give you a short listicle of the many fish in these waters, we would suggest the advice of another one of our favourite people, a specialist in all things Istanbul fish.
May your winter be fish-plentiful!