Saving unique fish in Issyk Kul

Adult naked osman - an endemic species to Issyk-Kul.
Adult naked osman - an endemic species of the Issyk-Kul lake, which are on the verge of extinction.

"I used to be a fisherman – like 10 to 15 percent of the people living in my district," said Ulan Abdyldaev, a fishermen from the Kuturga village located north of Issyk Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan.

"We used to go out into the lake, put up our nets and catch a lot of fish, mainly chebak and chebachok, with no hassle. It was getting less and less, but we did not pay much attention,” says Ulan, “And now, for the last five years, some chebak and chebachok have disappeared."


  • National Academy of Sciences laboratory of ichthyology and hydrobiology received modern technology for comprehensive research
  • Over 292 000 of fry of endemic fish were restocked to help increase their population

Like many villagers in Issyk Kul, Ulan made a living catching and selling fish. Uncontrolled fishing led to the disappearance of some unique species and also drove the fishermen out of business. Now Ulan is helping to restore some of the endemic fish species in Issyk Kul Lake: chebak, chebachok, marinka and naked osman.

Today, osman and marinka are considered endangered species. Two more endemic species – chebak and chebachok– have completely disappeared from the catches of local fishermen in the last five years.

UNDP and the Global Environment Facility are working with national partners to help preserve biodiversity through improving policies and laws related to the fishery sector.

This includes supporting Government institutions to do more research, control illegal fishing, assist fish farms in order to meet market demands for fish, and restore fish species.

"We received a lot of new equipment from UNDP – boats, sonar and measuring equipment," says Ryspaev Akylbek, who works in the National Academy of Sciences laboratory of ichthyology and hydrobiology – the only institution in the country with the capacity to conduct fish research.

"We can now conduct a comprehensive study of the lake water, species and determine the impact of various policies. For example, our Government prohibited fishing in Issyk Kul five years ago. Was it helpful? Has it changed anything? That’s what we want to find out."

Along with the long term work of research and policy development, UNDP is also helping to increase reproduction of endemic species. This includes restocking the lake with fish fry, and controlling the population of predatory species that threaten at-risk endemic species. In the last two years, over 292,000 naked osman and marinka fry were restocked in the lake.

Today most of the natural and artificial ponds around Issyk Kul Lake are private and poorly run. They employ 50 to 60 people and supply 75 tons of fish annually.

If these ponds could be run efficiently, both employment and volumes of fish in the market would increase dramatically, reducing the pressure on the endemic species in the lake. In addition, these ponds could serve as biodiversity reservoirs for some vulnerable species, which are suitable for fish farming.

"I’ve been working with the project for over two years," says Ulan.

"Now I understand how everything is interconnected. We have to think about the future. We already got what was ours, but how about our kids?"