The Dalyans of the Lake Karla property rights and artisanal fishing in the Ottoman Greece in the 19th Century

Ottoman patterns of landholding in the preindustrial period constituted a rather complex phenomenon due to the symbiosis of customary traditions and modern law. This complexity was more perceptible in the domain of water resources and riparian rights. Our knowledge on the legal status of dalyans (fishing weirs) and volis (designated areas for fishing) as immovable properties in the Ottoman economy and law is very limited. In this paper, I deal with customary traditions of fishing and regulation of fishing activities in the Lake Karla in the Ottoman Greece in the 19th century. The case illustrated the close relationship between fishing and property rights concerning land in a certain province. It was a complex relationship based on conflicts and contestations, not only upon possessing property but reallocating or appropriating fish resources. We know that after these conflicts and contestations were presented to the central government by the local authorities, the government chose to side with the landed interests. The decision of the government shows that the grant of fishing rights to the certain villages did not confer an absolute title to building dalyans. The right was essentially temporary even though the villagers claimed that they were given time immemorial rights. However, multiple claims were emerged due to the multiple registrations of rights to fish and rights to dalyan-building over many years. The case shows that the reallocation of certain fishing rights among different claimants was based on property ownership on land rather than subsistence fishing in the late 19th century. Thus, I argue that the management and use of natural resources were not mere outcomes of state’s ability to control and define legal ownership or property status. We must always look at how different social groups and institutions seek their own way to establish control over such resources.


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Citation Formats
S. Dursun, “The Dalyans of the Lake Karla property rights and artisanal fishing in the Ottoman Greece in the 19th Century,” presented at the CIEPO Symposium, (7 - 11 Ekim 2014), Budapest, Macaristan, 2014, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: