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Annex II Country Reports (Cont.)

Annex II-7

A. Matinfar and Dr. A. Nikouyan, Iranian Fisheries Research and Training Organisation, Tehran.

Sturgeon in Iran. The sturgeon stocks in the Caspian Sea are being supplemented by the stocking of large numbers of hatchery reared fish.


Success in the mass propagation of fingerlings, to replenish and enhance fisheries stocks in the Caspian Sea in the early 1980s, led to the development of inland aquaculture and the expansion of fisheries enhancement programmes to other natural and man-made water bodies. This two-pronged approach aimed to increase the supply of cheaper animal protein to the rapidly growing population, as well as to elevate the socio-economic status of fish farmers, coastal fishermen and coastal communities. In 1991, about 10,000 citizens were additionally employed in fish farming and related fishing activities through this approach. Fish production in 1992, derived from 7,635 ha of farming facilities and about 500,000 ha of water bodies (excluding the Caspian Sea), amounted to about 22,000 tonnes and 20,000 tonnes respectively, totalling about 42,000 tonnes. This represents about 12% of total fishery production (354,000 tonnes) in Iran.

The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran places much importance on the protection and conservation of the environment in relation to development, with the promulgation of Act 50 and the holding of the National Workshop for the formulation of a National Strategy for Environment and Sustainable Development in May 1993. This workshop was held in collaboration with international agencies, including UNDP and the World Bank. It is, however, the environment which is impacting on aquaculture (presently in its infancy of development) while fisheries enhancement has both positive and negative impacts on the environment. This is demonstrated by the two case studies, which comprise documentation of aquaculture development and the identification of potential environmental issues. However, expansion into coastal aquaculture and mariculture may mean that the interactions between the environment and aquaculture become more pronounced. It is in this context that the Iranian delegation looks to the FAO/NACA Workshop for guidance in the identification of priorities in relation to the environmental implications of its future aquaculture development programme. Iran hopes to learn from the experience of other Asian countries in dealing with environmental problems related to aquaculture development and establish institutional linkages in research, training and information exchange through TCDC activities at regional level.

Map of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Map of the Islamic Republic of Iran.


Iran, with an area of about 1.65 million km2 and a population of almost 60 million, is located in an arid and semi-arid region of West Asia. While a small part of the country along the Caspian Sea enjoys a moderate climate and ample rainfall, with an average 1250 mm/year, about three quarters of the country receives less than 250 mm/year. Average precipitation over the whole country rarely exceeds 300 mm.

Due to the socio-agroclimatic structure of Iran, fish and other aquatic organisms have not been a common food item in the traditional diet of the people, except in coastal areas. With a high population growth rate of 3.2%, however, fish is becoming increasingly important as a cheap source of quality animal protein supplementing that derived from livestock production, which is limited. In order to meet the nutritional needs of the people (and create additional employment opportunities) the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has recently directed much effort to the development of inland aquaculture and fisheries stock enhancement of water bodies. In the national context, this regional study is timely as Iran's aquaculture development programme expands to include mariculture and coastal aquaculture. It will enable Iran to learn from the experiences of other Asian countries in their aquaculture development programmes.

Iran places high priority on protection of the environment with promulgation of Act 50 which states: “In the Islamic Republic of Iran, protecting the environment on which present and future generations must have a growing life, is considered a general duty. Therefore, activities, economic or other, which necessitate polluting or permanent damage to the environment, are prohibited”. It also organised a national workshop in May 1993 to formulate the National Strategy for Environment and Sustainable Development through the Department of Environment in collaboration with the Planning and Budget Organisation, World Bank and UNDP.

As aquaculture in Iran is still in the initial stages of development, this national study documents the current status of aquaculture and identifies potential environmental issues which may be encountered as aquaculture expands. The study covers carp pond culture and fisheries stock enhancement, the two main areas of aquaculture practice in Iran.


3.1 Introduction

Aquaculture development in Iran is based on two approaches. One approach is to culture the appropriate species in ponds, tanks, raceways, cages and pens and aims to raise the socio-economic status of farmers. The other is to enhance fisheries production in natural waters through large-scale release of fingerlings produced by aquaculture. The latter approach is aimed at increasing fish supply for the benefit of the population at large, including raising the living standards of coastal fishermen and communities.

Although aquaculture is a new industry, the potential for expansion is high due to the variety and wealth of aquatic resources in Iran, from freshwater lakes, lagoons, reservoirs and rivers, to the brackishwater Caspian Sea and its sheltered bays and gulfs, and the marine waters of the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea. There are also several hypersaline inland lakes in which Artemia flourish. In some interior parts of the country, where the underground brackishwater table is high, brackishwater aquaculture such as mullet and shrimp culture can also be practised.

3.2 Aquatic resources of Iran

Iran's aquatic resources include 2,870 km of coastline along the Caspian Sea (990 km), Persian Gulf and Oman Sea (1,880 km), as well as large inland water bodies of more than 1.5 million hectares. Present utilisation of such water bodies for fish production includes 1,170 lakes, reservoirs and lagoons, covering a total water surface area of about 500,000 ha. There are also large expanses of flat, barren and saline lands stretching along the southern coasts of Iran which are unsuitable for agricultural purposes. About 5,000 ha of such coastal lands are being developed for shrimp culture. Also being developed are 10,350 ha of ponds for freshwater culture, representing 25% of the proposed 51,500 ha.

Unlike most other Asian countries, aquaculture is not a traditional practice in Iran. Initial efforts in the 1970s were directed at the development of hatchery techniques for the production of fingerlings of the valuable species such as sturgeon and Rutilus (a roach-like cyprinid) for release into the Caspian Sea for fisheries stock enhancement and replenishment purposes. This approach was also adopted for other indigenous species and introduced rainbow trout and Chinese carps, the latter of which have become the major species for freshwater aquaculture. The fisheries stock enhancement programme has now been extended to other inland water bodies in an effort to increase fresh fish supply in the interior provinces of the country.

Concerted efforts to develop inland aquaculture were first initiated in the early 1980s, soon after the Islamic Revolution. While initial efforts were limited to the three provinces with adequate supply of freshwater (Gilan and Mazandaran provinces along the Caspian Sea in the north, and Khuzestan province near the Persian Gulf), its development has since expanded to cover most of the 25 provinces in the country. Coastal aquaculture is a recent introduction for the production of highly esteemed marine products. While pearl oyster culture was initiated in 1984, shrimp culture on an experimental scale was introduced in 1992. Plans are afoot to study the feasibility of marine finfish cage and pen culture in the coastal waters of Iran.

3.3 Aquaculture production in Iran

The status and trend of development in terms of total production and its value and contribution to GNP are shown in Table 1, whilst the resources available for aquaculture (area of production and number of farms and farmers) are illustrated in Table 2.

Table 1. Aquaculture production in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1985-1992.

Total production* (tonnes)4,75333,68440,49042,04045,13142,420
Ponds (carp)
Tanks/raceways (trout)
Fisheries enhancement (carps, trout, native species)
Value of production (US $ million) 40.342.233.5**32.8**?
Contribution to GNP (%) 0.0850.0830.063??
Employment Generated*** ???10,408?

* Excludes figures for sturgeon, roach and minor indigenous species since natural populations exist. It is difficult to attribute their increased landing to stock enhancement; it could be due to management resources and fishing effort.
** Lower values are due to depreciation of local currency against US $.
*** Includes employment in enhanced fisheries, aquaculture and related activities.

Table 2. Water resources of Iran and extent of aquaculture development.

Number of water bodies*3643784581,170
Area of water bodies (ha)*491,123490,867503,502497,944
Total number of fish farms??2,2432,471
Carp farms
Trout farms
Total pond area (ha)??7,2197,635
Carp ponds
Trout tanks/raceways
Total number of farmers3,8953,8634,362?

* Discrepancy of numbers and areas of water bodies is due to increase in the number of small man-made reservoirs and deletion of larger lakes from stock assessment activities because of environmental impact.

While the cultured species and culture systems are detailed in Table 3, the quantity of fish by species produced in 1992 is indicated in Table 4. Fingerling production by year is shown in Table 5, which also reflects the expanding trend of development.

It can be seen from these tables that in 1992, total fish production from culture-based activities amounted to 42,420 tonnes, with 22,238 tonnes (52%) derived from pond and tank culture. Carps were the main species of production, accounting for 85% (36,197 tonnes) of total production. Although 144.7 million fingerlings of kutum roach (Rutilus frisiikutum) and 3.5 million sturgeon fingerlings were released into the Caspian Sea in 1992, production figures of these two groups of fish were not taken into consideration as it is difficult to estimate the proportion of annual production that can be attributed to culture-based activities in existing native fish populations. However, after implementation of the fisheries enhancement programme, the catch of kutum roach increased to 11,000 tonnes in 1992. Previously, the highest and lowest recorded catches were 5,850 tonnes in 1940 and 205 tonnes in 1976.

Table 3. Species cultured and culture systems/methods for the production of marketable fish.

 SpeciesCulture systems and methods
FingerlingsMarket-sized fish
SturgeonAcipencer guldenstaediPondEnhancement
A. persicus""
A. stellatus""
A. nudiventries""
Huso huso""
Indigenous speciesRutilius frisii kutum (roach)PondEnhancement
Abramis brama (bream)""
Aspius aspius (asp)""
Lucioperca lucioperca (pike-perch)""
Salmo trutta caspius (caspian trout)Tank/raceway"
Exotic carps and troutsCyprinus carpio (Common carp)PondPolyculture/enhancement
Ctenopharyngodon idella (Grass Carp)""
Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (Silver carp)""
Aristichthys nobilis (Bighead carp)"Tank/raceway/
Onchorynchus mykiss (Rainbow trout)Tank/racewayenhancement

In 1992, rainbow trout production from 28 farms with a total area of 8 ha of tanks and raceways was 775 tonnes and carp production from 2,443 farms with 7,627 ha of pond area was 21,463 tonnes, representing 97% of total farm production (22,238 tonnes). Average carp production in ponds is 2.8 t/ha country-wide, ranging from 2.4 to 3.7 t/ha in the northern Gilan province and 2.7 to 6 t/ha in the southern Khuzestan province which has a longer grow-out period.

Table 4. Fish production from aquaculture and enhanced fisheries, 1992.

 Common carpGrass carpSilver carpBighead carpRainbow troutOthersTotal
Aquaculture (tonnes)5,580
Enhanced fisheries (tonnes)6,055

* Most native fish which reproduce naturally, but includes rainbow trout released from hatcheries.

In 1993, several projects were initiated in a concerted effort to consolidate and expand aquaculture development. The Chinese systems of hatchery and nursery technologies have been successfully adapted, with a remarkable increase in the survival and production of carp seedlings. Adaptive research is currently being conducted to increase carp production per unit area by manipulating stocking rates, species combination and stocking sizes with inputs of aeration and feeds. About 120 aerators have been provided to farmers for field trials on the effects of aeration on production. Technical assistance is also being provided to land crops farmers to utilise their small irrigation reservoirs (1-2 ha) for fish production, there by enhancing their income and protein food supply.

Table 5. Yearly production of fish fingerlings of different species in government hatcheries from 1983-1992 (millions).

Rainbow trout-0.571.811.573.
Caspian trout---0.005-

* All fingerlings produced in 1992 were released into lakes, reservoirs and rivers except for 14.4 million(38%) carp and 0.92 million (49%) trout, which were supplied to farmers.

Cage and pen culture systems have been introduced for feasibility studies on the culture of Caspian salmon, rainbow trout, sturgeon, carps and marine finfish species. With the development of fish feed technology, fish health management and a better understanding of site selection criteria and the interactions of aquaculture with the aquatic environment, it is envisaged that these systems will have a significant role to play in contributing to the socio-economic well-being of coastal communities and the expansion of aquaculture in the country.

Coastal aquaculture of highly esteemed marine species such as shrimp and finfish has received much attention lately. Fourteen species of marine finfish are currently being screened for their cage culture potential. A pilot study on the culture of Penaeus monodon (with 300,000 post-larvae imported from Malaysia in 1992) in a 1.5 ha pond, yielded 2,322 kg of marketable shrimp. This encouraging result has stimulated much interest in the private sector. Twenty permits have already been issued along with provision of investment incentives and an initial supply of 4,250,000 post-larvae of P. monodon, imported from Malaysia in 1993. Eight private farms have been constructed and are now in operation. The culture of local shrimp species, such as P. semisulcatus and P. merguiensis, is being encouraged. Two small hatcheries, with production capacities of 3-5 million post-larvae, and four farms have been constructed for demonstration, training and extension.

However, in order to meet the production target of 10,000 tonnes for the Second Five Year Fisheries Development Plan, larger hatcheries have to be built. The establishment of six large hatcheries each with a capacity of 100 million post-larvae are now in the pipeline. In addition to the development of feed technology; disease prevention and control measures; and the establishment of guidelines for site selection and environmental issues, efforts are being made to take advantage of the natural populations of Artemia which abound in hypersaline lakes, such as Lake Uromia. This lake has an area of about 5000 km2 and a salinity of 200 ppt. Whilst one tonne of Artemia cysts were harvested, processed and utilised as sturgeon and shrimp larval feed in 1992, a pilot cysts plant with a capacity of 10 tonnes per year will soon be established. Also to be established is another pilot farm with a capacity of producing 100 tonnes of Artemia biomass to serve as live food for shrimp and marine fish fingerlings.

Parallel to the expansion of aquaculture area, culture technologies have had to be adjusted for increasing production per unit area, from 2.8 t/ha to 8-10 t/ha in the case of carp pond culture. Stocking rates, rations and sizes in carp polyculture systems had to be improved along with inputs of aeration, balanced compound feeds, fish health management and pond water management which should be provided on a more scientifically controlled and cost-effective basis. In addition to its application in shrimp culture, this scientific and multi-disciplinary approach is also applicable to the fisheries stock enhancement programme, which is expected to expand to cover inland water bodies. Inland waterbodies are already being used for several purposes including: irrigation; fish production; hydro-electric generation; potable water supplies and conservation. Appropriate cross-sectoral management of these waterbodies would enable their utilisation for fish production on an environmentally friendly basis, in harmony with other users of these multi-purpose resources.

With the planned expansion of shrimp culture and other aspects of coastal aquaculture and mariculture, it is envisaged that aquaculture will play an important role in the social and economic development of the country, if it is developed on a sustainable and environmentally sound basis. For this reason the Iranian Fisheries Authority places a high priority on the development of an environmentally sound policy which would enable aquaculture to develop on a sustainable and economically viable footing. It is presently working closely with the Department of Environment to formulate rules and regulations for the protection and control of aquaculture activities. The FAO/NACA workshop is expected to provide the essential guidelines for the formulation of national legislation for aquaculture development.

3.4 Legal framework for the environmental management of aquaculture

Rules and regulations
Being a relatively new field of development, specific rules and regulations for aquaculture in relation to the environment are presently not available. However, all aquaculture farms require licensing by the Division of Livestock, Ministry of Jehad-e-Sazandegi. Before the issuance of licences, to be applied through Shilat (Iranian Fisheries Authority of the same Ministry), prior approval should be obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Energy and the Environmental Protection Organisation (EPO). Apart from the 50th Act (statute) of the constitution mentioned in the introductory section of this report, the 45th status controls the management of natural resources, by placing them within the authority of the government through legislation which limits their use to “only towards general/public benefit”. Some of the regulations which may have bearing on aquaculture in relation to the environment are outlined below:

Law for hunting and catching
Act 6: Encourages individuals and organisations to establish aquafarms.
Act 12: Polluters of rivers, lakes or other water bodies are liable to punitive action.

Law for protection and improvement of the environment
Act 1: Defines action against pollution or any other means that disturbs the environment.
Act 9: Any action leading to pollution of the environment is prohibited.

Law to protect seas and inland water resources against oil pollution
Act 2: Defines the nature of pollution and punitive actions.
Act 13: Defines losses to aquatic environment by pollution other than oil.

Law for fair water distribution

Act 46: Polluting water is prohibited, and the Environmental Protection Organisation (EPO) executes the act. Under this act, definition and nature of pollution are explained. The EPO is responsible to identify different sources of pollution.

Act 47: All establishments using water must deem it their duties to implement pre-planned sewage/effluent treatment that has been agreed upon by the concerned bodies.

Regulations for purchase, sell, export, import and propagation of animals

Act 33: Permission will be issued to activities undertaking propagation and husbandary of aquatic organisms by the EPO if (i) the site is not found to be a source of disturbance to the public health and safety, or cause of damage to the environment, or cause to spread disease or weaken the races of aquatic organisms; and (ii) the plan and construction design of the site is approved.

Act 35: Permit holders must abide by the basic public health, safety, and anti-pollution clauses specified.

With regards to environmental management of aquaculture development, information on legislation (or lack of it) is indicated below:

Water quality and water pollution control
Although there is legislation for control of effluent discharged by factories, industrial plants, and other development activities, specific water quality standards have not been established for aquaculture effluent.

Environmental Impact Assessment
No legal requirement for EIA for aquaculture presently exists in Iran.

Control of the movement of fish
Introduction of exotic species into water bodies is regulated by the EPO. Transportation of fish for aquaculture purposes is regulated by the provincial branch of Jehad Ministry.

Control of chemicals
There are no codes of practice for the use of chemicals in aquaculture.

National parks and protected areas
No aquaculture activities are permitted.

Fish health
Regulation governing quarantine of imported fish exists, but is not enforced. No specific regulation to control disease in aquaculture exists.

Product quality control
The Ministry of Health (Public Health) is responsible for the control of quality standards of all food products, including aquaculture products. With expansion of aquaculture development, specific standards have to be legislated.

Compliance control and related problems and difficulties
Rules and regulations related to environmental aspects of aquaculture development are not comprehensive and, in many instances, not strictly enforced.


Although aquaculture is in its infancy, its interactions with the environment are beginning to be felt, especially with regard to the fisheries stock enhancement component. While these interactions are within tolerable limits from the standpoint of total collapse, severe losses suffered by the farmers or irreversible degradation of the environment, there are clear indications of the environmental issues that will have to be dealt with as aquaculture expands. A general review of the potential of these issues is given under the headings of impacts of environment on aquaculture production, and of aquaculture activities on the environment.

4.1 Impacts of external environment on aquaculture production

Physical factors
High water evaporation rates over most areas of Iran exerts pressures on the already limited supply of freshwater. High temperatures have been reported to be a factor in deoxygenation and fish mortalities in some instances. High temperature and thermal stratification could also cause oxygen depletion in water bodies and sheltered bays. Aquaculture production in some farms is also affected by alkaline and acidic soils or water, while the soil structure in some farms is too porous to hold water. Proper site selection would have avoided these problems. Occasional floods have been reported to be the cause of damage to several aquaculture sites.

Toxic industrial wastes
Although no studies have been conducted in this regard, run-off of toxic wastes and heavy metals from factories into rivers and water bodies causing fish mortalities have been reported.

Human and agricultural wastes
A major threat is agrochemical wastes such as fertilisers and pesticides finding their way into water bodies along with urban wastes such as sewage which is often discharged into open waters. It has been reported that some water bodies are already contaminated by such wastes resulting in eutrophication, with some areas overgrown with submerged and emergent weeds. Fish mortalities and disease outbreaks have been observed in these waters.

Petrochemical and radioactive contamination Petrochemicals are unlikely to affect freshwater ponds while radioactive contamination has not been observed. Oil pollution is likely to be a serious constraint to coastal aquaculture in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. With increasing interest in tapping the Caspian basin's rich oil resources, cage and pen culture or enhanced fisheries are likely be affected.

4.2 Contamination of aquaculture products

Fish tainted with petrochemicals and flotsam or infected with disease have poor market value, resulting in losses to farmers and fishermen. Contamination of molluscan shellfish is not an economic or health problem as these are not consumed in Iran.

4.3 Impacts of aquaculture on the environment

Chemical and/or organic fertilisers are used to promote productivity in ponds for carp production, and supplementary feeding with grain and fodder is provided at times. With low stocking densities, averaging 2,000–3,000 pieces/ha and a production of about 3 t/ha the practice is regarded at best as semi-intensive. Under such conditions the impact of pond aquaculture on the environment is not of significance, apart from competition for the use of water and agricultural land. As fish are cooked before consumption parasitic helminths do not pose a health problem, while antibiotics are hardly used.

The stocking of exotic carp in water bodies has both positive and negative impacts on the environment. While silver and bighead carp provide some biological control of eutrophication in organic-loaded water bodies, the ad hoc stocking of grass carp can create a negative ecological impacts if no assessment is made on the relationship between the number stocked and the productivity of the macrophytes on which it feeds. The establishment of free-breeding populations of unwanted exotic species such as Carassius auratus and Hemicultere leuciscus could also damage the ecology of native fish species. Parasites and opportunistic pathogens have been introduced to lakes and reservoirs through the release of hatchery-raised fingerlings, but negative impacts have not been assessed.


Two case studies, one on carp pond culture and the other on enhanced fisheries through culture-based practices, are presented under this section. These studies are based on a review of past reports, consultation with concerned authorities and compilation of the information collected. Much of the information presented here overlaps with that given in the other sections of this report.

5.1 Enhanced fisheries in Iran

5.1.1 Environmental issues in enhanced fisheries

The enhancement of fisheries through the release of artificially propagated and cultured fingerlings into inland water bodies has greatly contributed to fisheries yields. This is particularly true in the Caspian Sea, which has been an important source of protein and ecologically valuable indigenous fish species. Some of the most valuable sturgeon, highly priced for their caviar, are confined only to this sea. Due to over-fishing and man-made changes of their natural spawning grounds, the sturgeon stock has declined.

In addition to sturgeon, stocks of several other commercially valuable species such as kutum roach, bream, pike-perch and Caspian trout have also declined sharply, especially the kutum roach, Rutilus frisii kutum, which used to contribute much to the catch of bony fishes. As reported earlier, the lowest catch of the kutum roach was 205 tonnes in 1976, while the highest recorded catch was 5,850 tonnes in 1940. With the stock replenishment programme (initiated in early 1980s) the kutum roach achieved a production of about 11,000 tonnes in 1992.

The trend of production increases through stock replenishment for the sturgeon is illustrated in Table 6, while that for kutum roach, on the basis of fish catch from a designated fishing station is shown in Table 7. The numbers of hatchery-reared fingerlings by year for these two groups of fish are contained in Table 5.

Table 6. Mean annual production (tonnes) of sturgeon meat and caviar from the Iranian part of the Caspian Sea. Representative figures of the specific years are shown to indicate the production trend.

YearsMean Annual Production (tonnes)
76 – 792141,754
80 – 832211,509
84 – 872641,604
88 – 912871,750

Aquaculture-based fisheries stock enhancement can be seen to have a positive impact on capture fisheries yield. It has been extended to other inland water bodies, in which production of carp (14,733 tonnes) and trout plus other naturally produced native species (5,449 tonnes), totalling 20,182 tonnes has been achieved in 1992 (Table 1). This excludes sturgeon and kutum roach production, for reasons already given. Fisheries enhancement has therefore become an important method of fish production in Iran. To undertake such a highly important task several large hatcheries, some of them among the world's largest, (totalling 301 ha in 1991) are operated by the government. At present there are 12 government-run hatcheries and 11 private hatcheries, and with the presently improved method of hatchery operation through the adaptation of the Chinese system, further expansion is foreseen for the fisheries stock enhancement programme.

Table 7. Mean annual production (tonnes) of some commercially valuable bony fishes caught by means of surrounding beach siene since the 1950s from a designated fishing station at the Caspian Sea. Representative figures of specific years indicate the production trend.

DecadesMean Annual Production (tonnes)
Caspian troutPike-perchKutum roachBream

5.1.2 Reasons for fish population decline in the Caspian Sea

The two most important factors contributing to fisheries decline in the Caspian Sea are environmental degradation and over fishing. As most of the highly priced species, such as sturgeon, kutum roach and the caspian trout are diadromous, the dams constructed across the Sephid River (a major river in the Iranian side of the Caspian Sea) restrict upstream spawning migration. Pollution in the rivers, resulting from the discharge of effluent from tanneries, asphalt plants and factories, along with urban wastes (especially sewage) has been reported to contribute to fish mortalities either during the spawning run or the downstream migration of fish juveniles. Sand and boulder extraction for construction purposes could also be a contributing factor to the deterioration of fish breeding habitats. In the Caspian Sea itself, oil pollution and effluent discharge from thermal plants and industries could also disrupt the food chain and, in some areas, impact on the production of molluscan shellfish which are an important source of food for the kutum roach and some species of sturgeon.

Uncontrolled fishing and the use of non-selective gear with little scientific basis for stock management, could have added to the decline of the Caspian Sea fisheries. Illegal fishing of brooders during spawning migration coupled with the impact of river pollution could have affected the natural replenishment of fisheries stocks. Over fishing along with poor stock replenishment are likely to have compounded the fisheries decline in the Caspian Sea. The decline in the landings of kutum roach to a record low in 1976 is a case in point.

5.1.3 Management of environmental impacts

With the exception of regulating fishing effort and issuing warning of punitive actions to polluting factories (one tannery has been closed since), little has been done in the past to mitigate and manage the environmental impacts. Many studies need to be conducted involving different disciplines and the co-operation of various concerned national agencies. This one-year study followed by the national workshop in May 1993 to formulate a national strategy for the environment and sustainable development is a step in the right direction.

At the regional level, negotiations are under way to establish a regional fisheries committee for the management of fisheries resources in the Caspian Sea, with participation of all the five coastal states (Iran, Russia, Kazakstan, Turkemenstan and Azerbaijan). The government has also taken the lead in organising and hosting a 3-day regional scientific seminar on studying changes in the Caspian Sea water levels and the impact on the environment and living aquatic resources. It is therefore recognised that collective effort through regional co-operation is an essential and cost-effective way of achieving common national goals. These efforts, at both the national and regional levels, are expected to contribute much to the management of environmental impacts.

5.2 Environmental issues in carp culture

5.2.1 Introduction

Polyculture of carps in ponds, initiated in the early 1980s, followed the successful development of technology for the mass propagation of fish fingerlings for replenishment and enhancement of fisheries stocks. Although the practice has now extended to all 25 provinces in Iran with total pond areas estimated at 7,627 ha in 1992. It was initially limited to three provinces with adequate water supply, namely Gilan and Mazandaran provinces along the Caspian Sea in the north, and Khuzestan province near the Persian Gulf. The present case study is therefore confined to these three provinces which have a longer history of carp pond culture. Besides in-house consultation, much of the data are drawn from the report of the FAO aquaculture mission which visited Iran for two weeks in the last quarter of 1992.

5.2.2 Fingerling supply

Brood stock of Chinese carps were originally imported on a few occasions from several countries, including Russia, Romania, Hungary and China. Artificial propagation is effected through pituitary injection in government hatcheries. Pond-reared fingerlings of 2-3 g are sold to farmers and/or released into water bodies. For several years fish farmers were solely dependent on the government hatcheries for fingerling supply, although some private hatcheries have reduced the degree of dependency, government hatcheries are still the major supplier of fingerlings. The price of fingerlings sold to farmers varies according to size and species, as well as the source of supply. Government hatcheries sell at set standard prices while the prices of fingerlings from private hatcheries follow the economic forces of supply and demand. The prices for different species and sizes are shown in Table 8.

Table 8. Prices of carp fingerlings (source: FAO mission).

 Weight/sizeCommon CarpSilver CarpGrass CarpBighead Carp
Prices paid by farmers in Gilan province (Rails1)3g10152010
Prices set by Government for Gilan and Khuzistan (Rails)3g18303025
Prices paid by farmer in Khuzestan province5g100;25*;100100;35*;100100;20*;100 

* Purchased from a small Shilat hatchery in Khuzestan.
1 (1 US $ = 1,600 Iranian Rails)

5.2.3 Farming methods and marketing

Carp fingerlings (5–15 g) are polycultured in ponds of various sizes and of an average depth of 1.5–2 m under semi-intensive culture. The grow-out period is about 6 months or longer depending on the agroclimatic condition of the different provinces and the marketing strategy of individual farmers. Ponds are fertilised with organic manure and/or chemical fertilisers; supplementary feeding is generally practised. Green fodder is given to grass carp in the majority of farms while grains (mostly barley) are fed to common carp, especially in Khuzestan. Stocking density varies from 1800–2500 pieces/ha in Khuzestan province to 6000/ha or more in Gilan province. Stocking rates and ratios vary according to fingerling supply and provinces. Inputs of organic and chemical fertilisers and supplementary feed vary widely amongst farms and provinces (urea 135–150 kg/ha/year, ammonium phosphate 75–80 kg/ha/year, manure 3–10 t/ha/year, grains 0.1–6.0 t/ha/year). Average production is 3.2 t/ha (Gilan), 2 (Mazandaran) and 4.6 (Khuzestan). Some farmers are trying to intensify their farming systems by using aerators and pelleted feeds, but shortages of such equipment and capabilities in the country is a constraint to increasing farm performance. Details of comparative production parameters amongest the three provinces are given in Table 9 while those specifically for Gilan and Khuzestan provinces are illustrated in Table 10 and Table 11 respectively. Major problems encountered by most farmers include:

  1. Lack of technically qualified extension staff with practical experience;

  2. Lack of information and guidance on up-to-date technology;

  3. Rapidly increasing costs of production inputs;

  4. Difficulties in importing critical field equipment;

  5. Poor growth of silver carp, attributed to hybridisation with bighead carp;

  6. Poor survival of grass carp fingerlings and high incidence of disease in grass carp.

The fish is generally marketed above 1 kg each, at provincial capitals in Tehran. Depending on the species and size, farm gate prices range from Rials 800/kg ($0.50) to Rails 2,700 /kg ($1.70).

Table 9. Carp culture production parameters in three provinces.

Farm water area (ha)1.5–112–3610–27
Pond Area (ha)1–2 (mean =2)n/a1 – 25 (mean=5)
Stocking Ratio (% of total)   
Common carp
14 – 33n/a11 – 44
Silver carp
25 – 75n/a48 – 72
Bighead carp
3 – 17n/a-
Grass carp
8 – 39n/a8 – 38
Stocking Rates (no/ha)6,000-6,3002,500-10,0001,800-2,850
Stocking size (g)8–10n/a5
Fertilisers (kg/ha/yr)   
500 – 1,400500 – 1,500135 – 300
Ammonium phosphate
200 – 400 80 – 575
0–4,8003,000 – 29,00010,000– 30,000
Feed (kg/ha/year)   
Grains (wheat/barley)
100 – 700n/a1,600 – 6,000
Records not availablen/amostly barley
Production (t/ha)2.8 – 3.51.6 – 5.53.2 – 6
 (mean = 3.2)(mean = 2)(mean =4.6)

Table 10. Gilan Province: carp farm production parameters (Source: FAO mission).

 Farm 1Farm 2Farm 3*Farm 4Farm 5Farm 6
Farm Area (ha)      
Land area
1112 13.21.812
Water area
8.57.5 111.510
Production water area
Nursery water area
Production pond size (ha)21–1.5 -1.22.5
Stocking rates (no/ha)      
Common carp
2,000800 9901,0002,200
Silver carp
1,5004,500 2,7001,6673,000
Bighead carp
1,000200 --400
Grass Carp
1,500500 2,475667700
6,0006,000 6,2353,3346,300
Stocking size (g)      
Common carp
103 8–1015–2010
Silver carp
153 2–525–3010
Bighead carp
103 --6
Grass Carp
103 8–1015–1810
Stocking dateApril/MayApril/May ---
Harvest dateJan/FebAug/Jan Jan/FebOctJan/Feb
Total production (t)2122.5 373228
Production (t/ha)2.43
Unit wt market fish (kg)      
Common carp
1.20.7 1–120.90.65–1.2
Silver carp
1.30.8–1.2 1–1.20.8–1.10.5–1.1
Bighead carp
10.8–1.1 --1.5–2.5
Grass Carp
11.4–1.8 -1.2–1.61.5–2.5
Feed (kg/ha/year)      
Old poultry feed
1,700- ---
Rice Bran
2,300- ---
Broken wheat
-40 ---
Wheat bran
-53 ---
Starter and finisher
-- -518-
Wheat/barley/rice bran
-- --707
Fertiliser (kg/ha/year)      
670546 1,3861,200500
Amm. phosphate
330187 396400350
Amm. nitrate
-80 ---
3,3304,800 7,273--

Retail price in provincial capitals is about 10–20% above farm gate price, while a 30% mark-up for Tehran has been reported. Table 12 gives some indication of the price range of different carp species in Khuzestan province.

5.2.4 Financial viability

Carp farming appears to be economically viable in general and a lucrative operation in Khuzestan in particular, where gross revenue appears to be 1.5 to 2.5 times the total production cost. Investment required to establish a carp farm is about Rials 5 million per hectare, which would imply that the entire carp farm investment could be recovered within one year (Table 13 and 14). As reported earlier, a licence is required for access to aquaculture operation.

Table 11. Khuzestan Province: Carp farm production parameters (Source: FAO Mission).

 Farm 1Farm 2Farm 3
Farm 3
Farm 4Farm 5Farm 6
Farm Area (ha)       
Land area
Water area
Production area
Nursery water area
Production pond size (ha)1.85-21 – 3.51 – 252 – 12
Stocking rates (no/ha)       
Common carp
Silver carp
Grass Carp
Stocking size (g)       
Common carp
Silver carp
Grass Carp
Stocking dateApr/MayApr/MayAprMarAprApr 45dMay
Harvest dateDec/MarJan/MarJan/ MarFebJan 45 dOct 5mOct 70d
Total production (t)85756212521,01081
Production (t/ha)3.234.865.22.92.7
Unit wt market fish (kg)       
Common carp
Silver carp
Grass Carp
Feed (t/ha/year)       
3.66-4.6155 *40-
Other (legumes)
Fertiliser (kg/ha/year)       
Amm. phosphate
Manure (t/ha/yr)

It is applied through the Fisheries Department (Shilat) to the Livestock Division of the Ministry of Jehad-e-Sazandegi, the issuing authority. The issuance of the licence is subject to the approval of the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Jehad-e-Sazandegi and the Environmental Protection Organisation. It can be applied in the provincial capitals or Tehran. This procedure is required to establish the legality and suitability of the site selected.

5.2.5 Impacts of the environment on carp culture

  1. Pollution of water supply for carp culture by random application of chemicals in agricultural activities and influx of urban and industrial wastes.

  2. Limited freshwater resources has resulted in the concentration of carp culture in certain areas with ample freshwater resources.

  3. High evaporation exerts pressure on already limited fresh water supply in some areas.

  4. Porous soils in some instances reduce water holding capacity of ponds.

  5. High temperature in large areas results in deoxygenation of water and, in some instances, mortalities.

History and extent of impacts on the culture activity
Since aquaculture is a relatively new industry, no comprehensive studies have been conducted. Fish are generally marketed above 1 kg each, at provincial capitals and Tehran. Depending on the species and size, farm gate prices range from Rials 800/kg ($ 0.50) to Rials 2700 kg ($ 1.70). Retail price in provincial capitals is about 10–20% above farm gate price, while a 30% mark-up for Tehran has been reported. Table 12 gives some indication of the price range of different carp species in Khuzestan province.

Description of causes
An important cause of environmental impact is random use of chemicals in developing agricultural activities. Industrial wastes discharges have resulted in mortalities in some instances.

Management of environmental impacts
Farm management practices to deal with environmental impact are almost non-existent. Since the nature of impacts have not been seriously taken into consideration, no strategy of practices have been implemented so far. However in some serious cases polluting small factories have been warned, fined or even closed.

5.2.6 Impacts of carp culture on the environment

Aquaculture, has greatly contributed to the economy of the country. Several thousands of people have been directly or indirectly engaged in this industry. Being a new field, its impacts on the environment has not been fully comprehended. Among the most important adverse impacts are:

  1. Introduction of unwanted species by accident;

  2. Introduction of parasites into water bodies;

  3. Agriculturally productive lands in some areas have been converted into fish ponds;

  4. Local conflicts for freshwater share has been reported.

History and extent of impacts
No comprehensive studies conducted.

Description of causes
In general, the problems are related to high interest in fish culture and lack of comprehensive feasibility studies including environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Table 12. Farm gate prices in Gilan province.

FishFarm 1Farm 2Farm 3Farm 4*Farm 5Farm 6
Common Carp      
Average weight (kg)1.20.7--0.90.8–1.5
Price (R/kg)700–12001100--700–800650–1200
Silver Carp      
Average weight (kg)1.30.8–1.2--0.8–1.10.7–2.2
Price (R/kg)600–900900–1250--750–900500–1100
Grass Carp      
Average weight (kg)2.01.4–1.8--1.2–1.60.9–1.7
Price (R/kg)1300–18001800--1200–18001500–2500
Bighead Carp      
Average weight (kg)1.00.8–1.1---1.5–2.5**
Price (R/kg)600–800700–850---1500–2500

* Sold mixed at R 920/kg
** Not consistent with other data

Table 13. Farm gate prices of carp and marketing channels in Khuzestan (Source: FAO Mission).

FishFarm 1Farm 2*Farm 3*Farm 4*Farm 5Farm 6
Common Carp      
Average weight (kg)1.20.7--0.90.8–1.5
Price (R/kg)700–12001100--700–800650–1200
Silver Carp      
Average weight (kg)1.30.8–1.2--0.8–1.10.7–2.2
Price (R/kg)600–900900–1250--750–900500–1100
Grass Carp      
Average weight (kg)2.01.4–1.8--1.2–1.60.9–1.7
Price (R/kg)1300–18001800--1200–18001500–2500
Marketing50% Tehran 50% locally. Sells to whole saler; same one always for Tehran100% Tehran. Transports fish himself. Sells to wholesalers100% Tehran. Transports fish himself. Same wholesaler.100% Tehran. Transports fish himself 100% Tehran.Sells at farm.  Many wholesalers.Sells at farm to wholesalers.  C. carp sold at Ahwaz.

* Transport cost of R 200/kg has been deducted.


6.1 Prevention and cure of adverse effect on aquaculture units due to man-made changes to the environment

  1. Conduct comprehensive studies to find out different problems resulting from man-made changes.

  2. Implement strict environmental impact assessment on all proposed development projects to protect aquaculture activities.

  3. Establish a stringent legal framework and strict enforcement of measures against violation of the environment.

  4. Application of chemicals, including fertilisers, pesticides, etc. should be allowed only within a framework; farmers must be educated in methods of how and when to use them.

  5. Selection of sites, pond design and construction, and species to be cultured should be done only when all the environmental parameters are taken into consideration. Such procedures should, therefore, be conducted by authorised agencies to reduce the risks of adverse environmental effects on aquaculture operations.

  6. Establish water quality monitoring systems in areas of higher pollution incidents.

  7. Establish a quick response system to water pollution incidents.

6.2 Prevention and cure of adverse effect on the environment due to aquaculture activities

  1. A legal framework to monitor pond effluents to minimise risks of toxic chemicals and heavy metal residues, should be established.

  2. Health safety of feeds, drugs, water medium and finally the products should be controlled.

  3. Establishment of aquafarms in or near populated areas should be regulated.

  4. Transfer or introduction of live fish, particularly exotic ones, have to be strictly regulated.

  5. Chemicals used in aquaculture and the dosages should be strictly regulated.


7.1 Inland aquaculture

  1. Increase production per unit area of culture medium.

  2. Selective breeding of desired species.

  3. Intensify studies on culturing indigenous species.

  4. Intensify studies on feed and feeding methods.

7.2 Coastal aquaculture

  1. Heavy investment in shrimp culture.

  2. Intensify fingerling production to be released into the Caspian Sea. For this purpose a water recirculation system is under construction.

  3. Intensive studies on culturing marine finfish.

Table 14: Khuzestan Province: Production Costs versus Revenue (Rials/ha). Source FAO Mission.

ItemFarm 1Farm 2Farm 3Farm 4Farm 5Farm 6*
Common carp
30,00012,50021,0009,000 16,000
Silver carp
Grass carp
Subtotal168,00079,000156,000159,000 46,000
Amm. phosphate
Land rental
Motor Oil
Chemicals (Lime)
Total Production Costs1,474,2701,068,5002,825,6002,804,220n/a1,427,790
Gross Revenues      
Common carp
Silver Carp
Grass carp
Total Gross Revenues5,753,0002,562,3907,707,7008,947,2003,129,5002,152,000
Net Revenue per ha4,278,7301,493,8905,422,1006,142,980n/a724,210

* Farm 6 stocked too late and did not obtain sufficient fingerlings.
** Includes fuel, oil and some small equipment.
*** Includes maintenance of small poultry unit.

Table 15: Gilan Province: Production Costs versus Revenue (Rials/ha). Source FAO Mission.

ItemFarm 1Farm 2Farm 3Farm 4Farm 5*Farm 6
Common carp
Silver carp
Grass carp
Amm. phosphate
Amm. nitrite
Broken barley
---No Feed137,500Did not
Broken wheat
--- 340,00090,000
Leftover chicken feed
255,000-- -estimate
Rice bran
138,000-- - 
Wheat bran
-5,565- - 
Clover seed
--- 14,700 
Sub-total393,00011,365- 692,200 
Land rental**
Chemicals (Lime)
Total Production Costs1,669,110816,212-1,040,5741,988,2601,379,200
Gross Revenues      
Common carp
740,000367,000-All carp250,0001,320,000
Silver Carp
1,800,0002,163,000-sold at1,800,0001,620,000
Grass carp
900,000360,000-R 920/kg600,000400,000
Bighead carp
400,00053,000- -330,000
Total Gross Revenues3,840,0002,943,000-3,400,0002,650,0003,670,000
Net Revenue per ha2,170,8902,126,788-2,359,426661,7402,290,800

* Data questionable.
** Land was farm property. Estimate based on Govt provided data.
*** Mission estimate.

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