The local administration of Kirkuk governorate intends to remove thousands of fish farming ponds, most of which are located in Daquq district in the south of the governorate, starting next week, by decision of the Iraqi government, due to water scarcity.
The decision to remove fish farming ponds in several provinces, including Kirkuk, was issued more than a year ago by the Iraqi Council of Ministers, but its implementation was postponed more than once, and next week was set as a final deadline.
Zuhair Ali Hussain, director of Kirkuk Agriculture, told KirkukNow, “From next week, the committees will start removing the fish ponds.”
He pointed out that the aim of this step is not to harm the owners of the fish ponds.
“We ask them to market their products before the deadline and remove the tubs by themselves."
The director of the Agriculture Department stressed that the decision includes the entire province of Kirkuk, and all "unlicensed" ponds, which were built on agricultural lands, will be removed.
According to the investigations of (KirkukNow), in the district of Daquq (44 km south of the city of Kirkuk), there are approximately 3,000 fish ponds, which represent the source of livelihood for thousands of families, but the statistics of the Water Resources Department in Daquq indicate that only seven of them are licensed.
The water of Daquq wells is characterized by its salinity, which, according to farmers, affects the taste and flavor of fish, boosting demand for it compared to fish farms in other regions.
Last January, the administration of Kirkuk said it seeking to prevent the implementation of a decision by the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources to demolish unlicensed water wells, which if implemented would harm hundreds of farmers whose livelihood depends on fish ponds. On January 11, fish farmers of Daquq gathered in front of the mayor office and demanded the annulment of the decision of the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources.
Zuhair Ali said that the decision to remove the fish farming ponds is part of the measures taken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources in coordination with the army's joint operations command.
The vast majority of fish farming ponds in Kirkuk depend on well water, which is one of the reasons why Daquq fish has a special taste and has made it very popular. The price of one kilogram of Daquq fish this year reached 11,000 Iraqi dinars IQD (USD8), while its price was only 5000IQD/KG last year.
Owners of fish ponds, through KirkukNow, have called on the Iraqi government to reverse the decision to remove the ponds.
Shalal Ahmad, the owner of a fish pond, told KirkukNow earlier, "We appeal to the government to support us and not remove the fish ponds because they are the source of livelihood for thousands of families."
The beginning of this year witnessed a demonstration by the owners of fish farming ponds to protest against the decision of the Ministry of Water Resources to remove the ponds, but the Kirkuk administration temporarily suspended the implementation of the decision and asked the District Commissioner of Daquq to address the ministry in this regard.
Last September, the Directorate of Agriculture of Kirkuk gave fish pond owners one month to remove the ponds, and warned them of legal accountability.
Each dunum of land that is converted into fish ponds can accommodate 750 to 1,000 fish. Daquq farmers buy small fish from the city of Hilla, the center of Babil Governorate, and raise them in fish farming ponds.