By Idrak Abbasov
PIRALLAHI ISLAND, Azerbaijan, November 24, 2009 (ENS) - The fishermen perched on the beached boats on the Azerbaijan coast watched Faiq Balayev as he threw out his net, drew it in and trudged back to the shore. They need not have bothered, since he had once again failed to catch any shrimps.
"The net was empty again. I have stood in the water for three hours, and I haven't caught even 200 grams of shrimps," he said, as he returned to dry land on Pirallahi Island.
"It's been two years since the shrimps vanished from the Apsheron shore of the Caspian. And in these last few days, I have been returning home with almost nothing. Maybe 200-250 grams of small shrimps end up in my nets, but no one buys them. I give them to friends who fish to use as bait."
From Pirallahi, which juts into the Caspian Sea from the Apsheron peninsula some 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Baku, oil platforms are visible a kilometer offshore, and ecologists blame the pollution caused by the oil industry for the collapse in the shrimp population.
"It's not just shrimps, but the other resources of the Caspian too which are dying because of oil and gas production," said Telman Zeynalov, president of the National Centre of Environmental Forecasting.
He says shrimps rely on minute water plants and animals for food, but the sea floor has become heavily polluted with oil recently, meaning the micro-organisms have died.
"The problem is that in the last two years they have started to clean up the ships and other metallic objects that had been dumped in the sea, and as a result the oil spills of many years have once again been stirred into the sea water and caused the deaths of the marine resources of the coastal area," Zeynalov said.
"There is no empty space left on the Apsheron coast in particular. The shore is full of private houses owned by oligarchs or by private beaches. These constructions cause great harm to wildlife," he said. …