Armenian police have arrested 26 fishers for attacking and boarding a police boat in Lake Sevan in protest against seasonal fishing restrictions.
On Tuesday afternoon, a police patrol boat and a Sevan National Park boat were attacked by fishers patrolling for off-season fishing in Lake Sevan.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee said that around 200 fishing boats present in the lake near the village of Noratus approached the two boats, as masked fishers threatened to set fire to the police vessel.
The masked fishers reportedly insulted the police officers and employees of the park and threw bottles filled with petrol at their boats.
The committee stated that ‘some’ fishermen boarded the Sevan National Park boat and physically assaulted the officials on board. One of the fishermen then boarded a boat tethered to the Sevan National Park vessel and sailed away with it.
While the police reportedly chased the boat for around two kilometres, the fisher escaped.
The police detained 26 fishermen on varying charges of robbery, hooliganism, and interfering with official activities.
Robbery has a maximum prison sentence of six years, hooliganism eight, and interfering with official business carries a sentence of 10 years.
Fishing season is closed
On Wednesday, residents and fishers from Noratus held a protest in support of the imprisoned fishers and against the seasonal fishing restrictions, citing an abundance of fish in Lake Sevan.
The Armenian government bans fishing in Lake Sevan, Armenia’s largest lake with an area of 1,264 square kilometres, towards the end of every year. This year, the Ministry of Environment prohibited fishers from catching whitefish from 15 December to 20 January.
After Wednesday’s protest, Gegharkunik’s Governor, Karen Sargsyan, stated that the protesting fishermen had agreed to refrain from illegal fishing ‘until the end of the ban’.
Fishers in Armenia have long protested seasonal restrictions against fishing in Lake Sevan, most recently on 15 December, when fishers from several villages in the Gegharkunik province blocked the Yerevan–Sevan highway demanding a meeting with Sargsyan and Environment Minister Hakob Simidyan.
On Wednesday, Sargsyan and Simidyan suggested that the fishers could continue to fish until 24 December.
‘We received a response that was not definite. Some disagree and don’t want to stop fishing during that period’, said Sargsyan.