Story

Tide of Hope Rises in Aral Sea

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Rusting ships sit in the desert in the former port of Moynaq, Uzbekistan. Today, Moynaq is almost 100 miles from the receding shore of the southern Aral Sea. Image by Taylor Weidman. Uzbekistan, 2018.

Rusting ships sit in the desert in the former port of Moynaq, Uzbekistan. Today, Moynaq is almost 100 miles from the receding shore of the southern Aral Sea. Image by Taylor Weidman. Uzbekistan, 2018.

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Workers sort fish at a processing facility in Aralsk, Kazakhstan. Jobs have returned to the town as fishing operations have restarted and new fish processing facilities have opened. This facility processed roughly 500 tons of fish in 2016. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.

Workers sort fish at a processing facility in Aralsk, Kazakhstan. Jobs have returned to the town as fishing operations have restarted and new fish processing facilities have opened. This facility processed roughly 500 tons of fish in 2016. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.

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A man uses nets to fish beneath the frozen surface of the Aral Sea near Tastubek. Fishing yields have increased sixfold since 2006. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.

A man uses nets to fish beneath the frozen surface of the Aral Sea near Tastubek. Fishing yields have increased sixfold since 2006. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.

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Kiderbai Ibragimov watches as his wife milks a camel in Tastubek, Kazakhstan. When the fish died off, fishermen like Mr. Ibragimov relied on income from their camels to make ends meet. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.

Kiderbai Ibragimov watches as his wife milks a camel in Tastubek, Kazakhstan. When the fish died off, fishermen like Mr. Ibragimov relied on income from their camels to make ends meet. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.

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Fish species native to the Aral Sea are displayed at a museum in Aralsk. As the water salinity decreased, fish began swimming back into the sea from the rivers; today fishermen say they are catching around 15 different species of fish. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.

Fish species native to the Aral Sea are displayed at a museum in Aralsk. As the water salinity decreased, fish began swimming back into the sea from the rivers; today fishermen say they are catching around 15 different species of fish. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.

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An ornamental lighthouse adorns a grave overlooking the Aral Sea on the outskirts of Aralsk. Fishermen were once buried here, in the time before the sea dried up. Many of the graves are decorated with anchors, lighthouses, or other reminders of their vocation. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.

An ornamental lighthouse adorns a grave overlooking the Aral Sea on the outskirts of Aralsk. Fishermen were once buried here, in the time before the sea dried up. Many of the graves are decorated with anchors, lighthouses, or other reminders of their vocation. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.

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A Kazakh man and woman wait for a train under a Soviet mural in Aralsk. Kazakhstan declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The mural commemorates the events during the 1921 famine when Vladimir Lenin wrote a letter to Aralsk asking for assistance from the fishermen. They sent 14 rail wagons of fish to the famine-ravaged regions. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.

A Kazakh man and woman wait for a train under a Soviet mural in Aralsk. Kazakhstan declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The mural commemorates the events during the 1921 famine when Vladimir Lenin wrote a letter to Aralsk asking for assistance from the fishermen. They sent 14 rail wagons of fish to the famine-ravaged regions. Image by Taylor Weidman. Kazakhstan, 2018.