Al-Hasakah residents replace meat with fish; “unpopular meal” but cheap

A stand selling fish in Qamishli - 15 October 2022 (Enab Baladi / Majd al-Salem)

A stand selling fish in Qamishli - 15 October 2022 (Enab Baladi / Majd al-Salem)

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Enab Baladi – Majd al-Salem

Unlike the previous months before midday, the fish for sale on the stand of Hussainawi al-Barho, 45, almost ran out, something that made him “happy.”

Al-Barho, who took a place to sell fish at the entrance of the al-Hal market, the main market in the northeastern city of Qamishli, explained to Enab Baladi that the demand for fish increased during the past days after the “unprecedented” increase in the prices of other types of meat, as he used to spend the whole day without selling the entire quantity, and was obliged to keep the remaining part of it until the next day.

Currently, al-Barho sells about 90 kg of fish per day at a price of 7,000 SYP per kilo, while the price of one kilogram of red meat (sheep, cows) is about 22,000 SYP, and chickens are 8500 SYP per kilo, which makes fish the best choice and most affordable for the consumer, in light of the deterioration of the value of the Syrian pound against the dollar.

Many fishmongers spread out at the intersections of the main roads and in the central markets or roam the city’s neighborhoods with their cars and small carts, and sometimes the sellers take a place outside the city on the roads connecting the various towns of the governorate.

High demand

The demand of vendors increased for fish meat throughout the governorate of al-Hasakah, and fishing has become a source of livelihood for many residents of the governorate, “more than being a hobby for personal pleasure,” Alwan al-Hamid, a fisherman from the city of al-Hasakah, told Enab Baladi.

He explained that fishermen in the area deliver the required quantities from several places, including the southern al-Hasakah Dam lake, 25 kilometers away, the eastern and western al-Hasakah Dam, al-Jawadiyah Dam, and Bab al-Hadid.

According to al-Hamid, there are currently several types of fish in the market, including “red turkey,” and its main source is the Euphrates River in the governorates of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, and common carp and catfish.

The fisherman considered that the fishing profession, “like other professions, is not without troubles,” such as the chaos in fishing operations that affected the size of fish wealth and the adoption of unfair fishing methods.

Among the illegal methods used by some fishermen are to fish by shoveling, using dynamite, poisoning, and the use of fishing nets with very small holes that “trap young fish and prevent them from maturing and completing their life cycle” and fishing during the mating and breeding period that extends from March to May from every year.

According to what Enab Baladi monitored, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) organized and prevented hunting operations during the breeding period and granted a special card to the fishermen,

This was rejected by most amateur fishermen and those who go to the lakes for picnics and fishing during the trips, yet these procedures remained not applied “as required.”

Healthy, best choice

Saadia al-Salmo, 51, told Enab Baladi that fish has become an option for her family as a result of the difference between its cost and the cost of other meat, adding, “For one kilogram of meat, I buy about three kilograms of fish, enough for a whole month.”

Qamishli-based nutrition expert Harith al-Blaibel told Enab Baladi that when comparing different types of meat with fish meat, we find that fish meat comes first in terms of health, as it is a rich source of high-quality protein and low in harmful fats, recommending that it be eaten twice weekly.

But the prevailing culture in the region, and the pattern of consumption associated with customs and traditions, make people prefer red meat and chicken over fish.

Fish meal is still not considered a popular meal, and the population’s knowledge of fish farming methods is not at the required level, and the current demand for it will change the patterns of meat consumption in the region, according to al-Blaibel.

The nutrition expert explained that fish contains a high percentage of omega-3, which improves the functioning of the nervous system, prevents Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and rheumatism, protects against cancer, and promotes heart health.

Fish is also a mine of many vitamins and minerals that the body needs on a daily basis, such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, potassium, amino acids, and fatty acids.

(1 USD = 3000 SYP due to Central Bank, but the pound is trading around 5,200 to the dollar)

 

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