Popovska gaovica

Ark of taste
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The stygophilic freshwater fish Delminichtys ghetaldii is best described in English as the "Popovo Polje Minnow". It is small fish, of just 10 centimeters length.
Its life-cycle in the karst of Hercegovina is very interesting. It spent most of its life in the underground lakes of ponors, estaveles and springs of the famous Popovo Polje, one of the largest natural karst depressions in the world. Popovo Polje has more than 500 ponors, estavelles and springs and the combined absorption capacity of the ponors was much less than that of the discharge of its springs and estavelles.
When the winter rains activated the springs and estavelles, they formed a very large surface lake "Popovopoljsko Jezero" in Popovo Polje. The force of water pushed all the gaovice out into the surface lake.
Gaovice are very nutritious in both the protein and carbohydrate levels they contain. For many centuries, a periodic "mountain fishing industry" occurred every winter to catch gaovice and thus they formed part of the staple diet for the local inhabitants. Any fish that were not caught in this way were eventually pulled back down into the ponors and estavelles as the lake water receded when the rainy period ended and the Popovo Polje "100-Day Corn" was then planted on the polje floor.
On its previous sub-industrial scale, this fishing industry is now dead, due to the destruction of the karst hydrography of Eastern Hercegovina by the Hidroelektrane na Trebišnjici Co, Trebinje.
On some rare occasions during extremely prolonged and wet winters, part of the Popovo Polje Lake does briefly form in the Lower Polje area.
However, gaovica fishing is still undertaken at some estavelles and springs by a few local people in Popovo.
They use different types of "fishing baskets" but the most common are made of woven cane.
According to the same author, fishing of gaovica and of other existing fishes in Trebisnjica river in Popovo polje used to be very developed activity managed by established rules (when to fish, how…).

Additionally, the remains of the only two fishing boat quays in Popovo Polje where the fish were originally landed at specially constructed quaysides or harbours, can still be seen.
One is at Trnavica and the other more developed harbour is directly opposite this on the south side of the polje at Ravno.
Ravno itself also has three Ponor Mills where the Popovo Polje "100-Day Corn" was milled into flour by using the hydraulic power of the water falling into ponors beneath a mill to drive the millstones.

These ancient industries were self-sustaining complemented each other, they used nothing but the local natural resources. Biodiversity was protected in the most ecologically-friendly way.

Gaovice are also essential to the hypogean (karst underground) ecosystem because they have a voracious appetite and are insectivorous and carnivorous.
Any surface lizard, reptile or other fish species that ventured into the underground, would be consumed by these "piranha fish of the deep".

Today gaovice still survive in many underground locations in the Trebišnjica River Basin but they are insufficient in number to use as a general food source because their natural life-cycle has been completely disrupted by the lack of appearance of an annual surface lake in which to breed and exchange genes.

In the past, Popovska gaovica used to be fished and prepared in a very simple way. Peasants used to cook them in their own fat with just a beat of salt. The dish is called "razvara". In today times, gaovica is rarely on the plate of Popovo polje inhabitants, but, when in autumn, winter or spring period they manage to fish gaovica, they still prepare it in this way.
Gaovica can be found in other underground parts of Trebišnjica river, but according to local people, the one of Popovo polje has the best taste.
According to Milenko Filipovic, one of two authors of "Popovo in Hercegovina" book (Sarajevo, 1959), in old times, Popovo polje peasants used to dry (smoke on fire) popovska gaovica too.

Gaovica has to be protected and preserved as an endangered species of high nutritious characteristics. Also, the fact that this species used to feed inhabitants for centuries gives an excellent example of ecological-friendly sustainable fishing and feeding.

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StateBosnia and Herzegovina

Federacija Bosne i Hercegovine

Republika Srpska

Production area:Trebinje, Ravno (Popovo polje)

Other info


Fish, sea food and fish products

Nominated by:Brian Lewarne e Gordana Radovanović