Once the world’s fourth-largest lake, the Aral Sea started disappearing after Soviet-era irrigation projects rerouted Central Asia’s two largest rivers. Over 40 years, the Aral Sea separated into two lakes, the North Aral Sea and the South Aral Sea, sectioned by a salt desert. The water’s salinity increased and the fish began to die. Thousands of people lost their livelihoods as the environment began to deteriorate severely.
But today, the fish are back in Tastubek, a small village in Kazakhstan that sits along the North Aral Sea. More than 15 different fish species have re-emerged in the north, putting the region’s men back to work. The fishing industry has expanded from 600 tons of seafood harvested in 1996 to 7,200 tons today.