Saturday, January 17, 2009

Operation CARPE DIEM

from the Victory Times, telling the Multi-National Corps - Iraq story, Vol. II, Issue 121. [no longer on the web]

Palace fish make splash in Iraqi economy

Experts use rare species to jump-start industry/ limits placed on Soldiers' fishing, feeding activities

by SPC. Christopher M. Gaylord, 13th Public Affairs Detachment

In the 1990s, Saddam Hussein drained Marsh Arab wetlands in southern Iraq to punish locals who had provided refuge to rebels. The results devastated entire villages whose economies relied mainly on the fishing industry.

Years later, water is flowing back to the area, but the fish population is still depleted.

Multi-National Corps-Iraq's agricultural team is collaborating with the Iraqi government in an effort to revitalize the fishing industry in areas where the fish population was decimated.

For the next month, the MNC-I C9 agricultural team will go fishing in Victory Base Complex's lakes, including the moat that surrounds Al Faw Palace, the headquarters for MNC-I and Multi-National Forces-Iraq.

Their catch--three rare species of male and female fish--will be transported to the state fish hatchery in Sewara, in Wasit Province, 65 kilometers south of Baghdad.

"The biologists that looked at the fish at Al Faw Palace said that if they could capture a number of these fish, it would revolutionize the fishing industry in Iraq, so they're very excited about it," said Col. Lyle Jackson, veterinary officer, C9 agriculture, MNC-I. "These fish are extremely valuable."

The fish to be harvested are of the Bunni, Shabout and Kattan species, three of the types most desired by Iraqis.

"The whole population [of Iraq] favors these types of fish," said Dr. Mewafak Raffo, veterinary poultry advisor, C9, MNC-I.

Raffo said the genetics of the fish on Victory Base Complex are ideally suited for the project. Similar specimens can't easily be found anywhere else in the world, he said: The palace fish were carefully screened, and no one has touched, abused or attempted to catch them illegally.

The goal is to capture about 150 female fish and 300 male fish from each species by the end of January.

The Iraqi biologists o the project have a process that will help the fish reproduce at a high rate, ensuring the most offspring and bang for the buck. "We get a very high percentage of fertile eggs and a very large hatch," Jackson said.

To aid the project, Jackson has asked that VBC personnel feed the fish only during certain hours and only from the shoreline outside Al Faw Palace's gates. Personnel are asked not to fish from the palace bridge, which had been a popular feeding spot.

"We're just asking people to feed them at a site where we can capture them easier," Jackson said. Closer to the palace bridge, "the water is very deep over there, and there's no bank to work from. You'd have to use boats," he said.

On a base where fishing is a common leisure activity, Jackson also has asked that personnel cease fishing with nets until the harvesting is completed.

The project is a possible boon to the marshes, an area of Iraq that has been financially and environmentally staggered for more than a generation.

"These fingerlines we produce from this project will be used to restock the marshes in the south that have been devastated by drought and by the previous government," Jackson said. "They're depleted and so those people can't make a living fishing anymore."

Jackson, Raffo and the rest of the agricultural team are confident the project's success will be felt nationwide.

"We can help the whold Iraqi economy with these fish," Jackson said.

MNC-I News Release: MNC-I agricultural team working promising fish harvesting project.

Another MNC-I News Release: Fishing Industry to be Revitalized with Species from Saddam's Palace Waters.