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  1. Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
    1. Summary
    2. History and general overview
    3. Human resources
    4. Farming systems distribution and characteristics
    5. Cultured species
    6. Practices/systems of culture
  2. Sector performance
    1. Production
    2. Market and trade
  3. Promotion and management of the sector
    1. The institutional framework
    2. The governing regulations
    3. Applied research, education and training
  1. Trends, issues and development
    1. References
      1. Bibliography
      2. Related links
    Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
    The Islamic Republic of Iran is located in the Middle East between latitudes of 25° 00' and 39° 47' N and longitude of 44° 02' and 63° 02' E. The total area of the Country is 1 648 195 km2 which includes 1 636 million km2 land area and 12 000 km2 of water surface. The coast line stretches for 2 700 km to the south in the Gulf and the Oman Sea and in the north along the Caspian Sea.

    Weather conditions differ greatly across the country allowing a range of different types of aquaculture to be practised. Fish farming in the Islamic Republic of Iran began with the enhancement of fish species selected from the Caspian Sea and then continued through the development of semi-intensive aquaculture utilizing various Chinese carp species, as well as the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). In recent years, shrimp culture (whiteleg shrimp - Penaeus vannamei) and marine fish culture such as Sobaity seabream (Sparidentex hasta), barramundi (Lates calcarifer), orange-spotted grouper (Epinephelus coioides), has become the main focus for government investment in the Gulf region where it has been developed in earth ponds, land bass and sea cages.

    The total area of fish ponds in the Islamic Republic of Iran is estimated at approximately 51 078 ha in 2014. The major warm water species produced are the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and the three main Chinese carps, namely, grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and the bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis). Of the total Iranian aquaculture production in 2014, carps represented 45.8 percent, rainbow trout 34 percent, aquaculture-based fisheries production 13.9 percent, cultured shrimp 6 percent and 0.2 percent for other aquaculture products such as sturgeon and lobster. About 80.7 percent of the total aquaculture production is utilized mainly for domestic markets with the main export commodity being fish and other aquatic animal (82.9 percent), shrimp (16.85 percent) and caviar (0.23 percent) of export value in 2014.

    Aquaculture production increased rapidly from 3 219 tonnes in 1978 to 371 840 tonnes in 2014, representing approximately 39.2 percent of the total fish production. This proportion is expected to increase during the fifth sixth-year plan which began in 2017 to 45.5 percent.

    The legal and institutional framework for aquaculture development in the Islamic Republic of Iran is relatively well established, and the law on conservation and harvesting of aquatic resources, approved by the Parliament in 1997, drives fisheries and aquaculture activities in the country.

    As part of a stock enhancement programme along the southern Caspian Coast, the government had established nine hatcheries to produce bony fishes and sturgeon fingerlings. All aquaculture activities, including feed and larvae production, fish and shrimp culture, processing, marketing and trade are carried out exclusively by the private sector. The government supports the private sector by providing low rate interest loans and suitable land at competitive prices.
    History and general overview
    Aquaculture activity records in Asia go back thousands of years. The Islamic Republic of Iran, however, has only given serious attention to this activity during the last three decades where investment in aquaculture development began in the early 1980s along the Caspian Coast and in some of the southwestern provinces. Initial attempts began with the culture of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) near Tehran at Mahisara (Karaj) in 1959, the first warm water farm was established in Gilan Province by the Abzi Company in 1971.

    Shrimp culture in the country goes back only as far as 1991 when the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) assisted the Islamic Republic of Iran with the development of shrimp farming in the Gulf region. The industry has developed so fast in the past years. Production reached 22 475 tonnes in 2014.

    Fish production from aquaculture and aquaculture-based fisheries increased from 3 219 tonnes in 1978 to 371 840 tonnes in 2014. The main types of aquaculture activities in the Islamic Republic of Iran are:
    • Warm water fish culture of Chinese carps and sturgeon.
    • Coldwater culture of rainbow trout.
    • Brackish water shrimp culture.
    • Marine shrimp culture.
    • Marine fish culture .
    • Culture-based fisheries and juvenile production for stock enhancement.
    Human resources
    The total number of people employed in fisheries has risen from 93 213 in 1993 to 208 472 by 2014 of which the number directly employed in aquaculture and aquaculture-based fisheries was 68 287.
    Shrimp culture plays an important role in the alleviation of poverty and the creation of job opportunities along the southern coast of the country. It has created about 8 896 direct, full-time jobs in farms and hatcheries and almost an equal number of indirect, full-time jobs in feed production, processing units, trade, distribution and support services. Moreover, the number of part-time jobs created in related sectors such as construction, transport, equipment services, etc., has also been significant.
    Farming systems distribution and characteristics
    Warm water fish culture - There are almost 50 835 ha in 2014 allocated for warmwater fish farming around the country, producing some 170 341 tonnes of fish in Year 2014 or 45.81 percent of total aquaculture production. The provinces of Mazandaran, Khuzestan, Guilan and Golestan are the main geographical areas where warmwater fish farms are located and account for 91.27 percent in 2014 of the total warmwater production (155 485 tonnes) in 2014. Of the total warmwater production in 2014, Mazandaran produced 30.33 percent; Khuzestan 28.08 percent, Guilan produced 25.15 percent and Golestan 7.75 percent.

    Cold water fish culture (rainbow trout) - Trout farms are distributed across the centre, the northwestern and western parts of the country mostly in mountainous areas characterized by cool summers and cold winters. The farming system consists of simple raceway made of concrete through which water flows continuously. An increased number of farms along with improving farming techniques and facilities have boosted annual production of trout from 280 tonnes in 1978 to more than 126 515 tonnes by 2014.
    The production of rainbow trout takes place in Mazandaran (15.60 percent), Lorestan (9.84 percent), Kohkilouyeh (8.73 percent), Chaharrmahal va Bakhtiari (8.49 percent) and Azarbayjan gharbi (7.05 percent). In 2014, total coldwater production in these five provinces accounted for more than 49.7 percent of the total cold water production; rainbow trout alone accounted for more than 34.02 percent of the total aquaculture production.

    Shrimp culture - In 2014, shrimp production reached almost 22 475 tonnes produced from 7 053 hectares of coastal ponds, located mainly in five provinces in southern and northern regions; compared to the previous year, production levels and land use increased by approximately 47.58 and 76.99 percent, respectively. The high price of shrimp on the world market has been one of the major factors for increase production in available ponds for shrimp culture. The division between each of the five provinces in the southern and northern part of the Country which contain all the shrimp farming operations is as follows: Boushehr 64.51 percent, Hormozgan 26.34, Khouzestan 6.06, Golestan 2.14 and Sistan va Belochestan 0.93 percent.

    Culture-based fisheries - Lakes and reservoirs with an area totalling 1.5 million hectares provide a good capacity for freshwater aquaculture around the country. Among this total, some 351 water bodies with an area of 800 thousand hectares are regarded as having good potential for aquaculture purposes and recreational fishing. At present, some 746 096 hectares of natural and semi-artificial water bodies are under exploitation and in 2014, 51 666 tonnes of fish were produced.
    The potential to increase production from these water bodies is very promising, however, due to the lack of rain in recent dryer years some of these water bodies run the risk of drying out and, therefore, fisheries has become seasonal. The southwestern region of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Khouzestan province) has good potential for receiving water from the Republic of Iraq, however the water-use policy in Iraq will affect fisheries in these vast areas. A similar situation exists in the eastern part of the country, where rivers from Afghanistan bring water to the Hamon Lake in the Islamic Republic of Iran. These water bodies create job opportunities; income and food for the population living in these areas, however, the lack of proper policy or agreement with neighbouring states creates difficulties and an unstable income and lifestyle for people in the catchment areas of these water bodies.

    Cultured species
    Warmwater fish culture includes extensive rearing of three species of Chinese carp, namely grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), as well as common carp (Cyprinus carpio), introduced from the People’s Republic of China , Romania and the Republic of Hungary. There has also been an attempt to introduce Indian carps to the existing warmwater aquaculture operations with the aim of increasing income generation and diversifying fish products to meet the interest of the customer. Coldwater fish farming includes the rearing of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in tanks and raceways. Rainbow trout has been introduced from several countries including the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Republic of Italy, the Kingdom of Norway and the French Republic.

    The shrimp farming system utilizes semi-intensive techniques aimed at the production of 3 tonnes/ha in rectangular earthen ponds. Indian white prawn (Penaeus indicus) was the main species farmed at the beginning, because of the availability of wild broodstock, easy maturation in captivity and tolerance to variable environmental conditions (in particular temperature and salinity). Than has been introduced the whiteleg shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) , currently the main farmed. Several experiments have demonstrated that the green tiger prawn (Penaeus semisulcatus) and the banana prawn (Penaeus merguiensis) are not suitable species for pond culture. The slow growth of green tiger prawn and the high mortality of banana prawn are the main disadvantages to farming these species.

    Farming of giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii), beluga (Huso huso), freshwater bream (Abramis brama), Barbus sharpeyi, pike perch (Sander lucioperca), Sobaity bream (Sparidentex hasta), barramundi (Lates calcarifer), orange-spotted grouper (Epinephelus coioides) is being promoted to farmers as a way of diversifying production, increasing income and providing increased marketing flexibility.
    Practices/systems of culture
    Extensive aquaculture - Extensive aquaculture is practised in inland lakes, dams and reservoirs across the Islamic Republic of Iran. The main reservoirs are located in the southwest and eastern regions close to the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan. There are many dams mainly in Khozestan province like Karoon dam (Karoon 1,Karoon 2 ,….), as well as the Aras dam on the Azerbaijan border, which provide excellent conditions for aquaculture based fisheries. Most of the reservoirs in Mazandaran along the Caspian coast are stocked mainly with Chinese and common carps. Aras dam in west Azerbaijan, Hamon Lake in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Howr-al-Shadegan and Hawr-al-Hawizah in Khuzestan are the most important sites for the re-stocking of juveniles for subsequent harvest by inland fishermen once the fish have matured.

    Semi-intensive aquaculture - Carp production in earthen ponds is the main form of semi-intensive production encountered, with 170 341 tonnes produced in 2014 from 50 853 ha of ponds. The usual pond depth varies between 1.8 to 2.5 m with a production time of approximately 5-8 months depending on the temperature and type of feeding diet in place. Average production is 3.9 tonnes per hectare, which is low compared to other countries in Asia.
    The combination of the four carp species varies depending on climatic conditions and the farm management system being implemented. The most common combination is as follows: common carp (Cyprinus carpio) 35-40 percent, grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus) 10 percent, silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) 40-45 percent and bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) 10 percent.
    Production of rainbow trout takes place in raceways with the average production being approximately 29.3 kg/m2; this is low compared to production levels obtained in Europe. The total area utilized for rainbow trout farming is about 651.6 ha with the aim being to increase average production up to 32.5kg/m2 by the end of the sixth year plan.
    Shrimp farming in the Islamic Republic of Iran also falls within the semi-intensive category of production. In 2014, the average production per hectare was 3.5 tonnes.

    Intensive aquaculture - Over the past few years, 108 licences have been issued to the private sector for the development of recirculation production systems. Of this figure, 21 farms are operational. Total production of rainbow trout using this method was 745 tonnes in 2014 or 0.5 percent of the total production of rainbow trout. Farms equipped with aerators (paddle wheels and air jets) aim for higher production levels that range between 60.3 kg/m2.

    Integrated farming systems - Integrated farming systems (utilizing waterfowl, rice and fish culture) are not common. Over recent years, however, the Iranian Fisheries Organization (Shilat e Iran) has received funding to introduce new techniques to increase the productivity of both water and soil resources in the agriculture sector. Fish culture in paddies (following the harvesting of rice) and irrigation reservoirs have brought about considerable benefits to rural families including food security. In 2014, 28 tonnes of rainbow trout in 7 125 m2 of integrated farm systems and 494 tonnes of carps in 443 ha were produced.

    Fish cage culture - Most fish cages are located in lakes and dams with rainbow trout production from cages being 754 tonnes in 2014. A development plan is underway in the Caspian Sea, the Gulf and Oman sea for the development of marine cage culture. In 2014, total production in Mazandaran and Gilan provinces is 123 tonnes. In order a pilot project with six cages has been established at Qeshm Island in the Hormozgan province for experimental research into mariculture and in 2016, the production will be developed up to 3 000 tonnes in Hormozgan province. The candidate species for mariculture development in the Caspian Sea include, among others, rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and strugeon (Huso Huso). The Gulf and Oman sea include groupers (Serranidae), Sobaity bream (Sparidentex hasta), barramundi (Lates calcarifer), cobia (Rachycentron canadum), silver pomferet (Pampus argenteus) and fourfinger threadfin (Eleutheronema tetradactylum).

    Fish hatcheries - In order to support the requirements of the growing fish farming industry several government-run fish hatcheries were established for rainbow trout production in 1988 in Yasuj (Kohhgilooyeh Province) and Kelardasht (Mazandaran Province). As well as in 2014 one marine fish hatchery is established in Kolahi (Hormozgan province). More than 95 percent of the juveniles were produced by the private sector. The private sector invested for marine hatchery in south of Iran. The Iranian Fisheries Organization allocated the state owned hatcheries for the production of juvenile sturgeon and other bony fishes for use in the re-stocking of the Caspian Sea under its stock enhancement programme. There are several stock enhancement programmes for shrimp and fish resources on the Gulf and the Oman Sea area as well.
    Sector performance
    According to the Iranian Fisheries Organization's statistical year books, the total production from aquaculture and aquaculture-based fisheries was 45 300 tonnes in 1994, approximately 13 percent of the total fisheries production (350 000 tonnes). However, by 2014, this figure increased to more than 371 840 tonnes or 39.25 percent of the total fish production.

    Aquaculture and aquaculture based fisheries production in the Islamic Republic of Iran 1997-2014.
    Year Warmwater Coldwater Sturgeon Aquaculture based fisheries Brackish water shrimp Freshwater prawn Cage culture Total
    1997 27 183 2 514   34 780 523     65 000
    1998 27 374 4 994   38 763 869     72 000
    1999 23 000 7 000   36 000 1 800     67 800
    2000 27 500 9 000   25 490 4 010     66 000
    2001 28 060 12 170   25 785 7 624 6   73 645
    2002 54 801 16 026   13 010 5 990 30   89 827
    2003 61 084 23 138   18 461 7 462 30   110 175
    2004 65 400 30 000   20 230 8 903 27   124 560
    2005 73 396 34 760   22 179 3 577 268   134 180
    2006 77 463 46 275   24 970 5 700 270   154 678
    2007 97 262 58 761   34 888 2 508 258   193 677
    2008 87 748 62 630   28 622 4 372 275   183 647
    2009 100 793 73 642 363 27 503 5 128 287   207 716
    2010 121 608 91 519 251 27 503 6 359 298   247 538
    2011 132 172 106 409 312 38 089 8 026 338   285 346
    2012 154 565 131 000 456 42 263 10 152 341   338 777
    2013 167 883 143 917 564 45 551 12 698 263   370 876
    2014 170 341 126 515 650 51 666 22 475 70 123 371 840
    (Source: Iranian Fisheries Organization Statistical Year Book, 2014).

    For comparison with the nationally produced statistics outlined in the table, the following graph showing total aquaculture production reported to FAO, does not include capture-based aquaculture.

    Market and trade
    Fish was not a popular part of the Iranian diet, especially in its central cities, in 1980s. Per capita consumption was 1 kg/year and reached 9.2 kg by 2014. Expansion of aquaculture throughout the country, together with an increase in people's knowledge of fish as a healthy food, is helping to change people's attitude to fish and marketing campaigns by the Iranian Fisheries Organization and the Ministry for Health has also helped to enhance fish consumption in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
    Aquaculture and fisheries production takes place mainly in the remote southern areas of the country, where food security due to lack of infrastructure is very important to the government. From a food security and job opportunity aspect, the fisheries industry is in a favourable position and government investment in this sector is substantial. A fish consumption campaign, initiated by the Iranian Fisheries Organization, has been in place since 1998, particularly in inland cities which seems to have had a positive effect on people's diet. The value of fisheries commodities exported in 2014 was USD 300 million.

    Aquaculture contribution to the economy: The contribution of aquaculture to fishery production has progressively increased, a production of 4 900 tonnes in 1978 (less than 1 percent of the total fishery production) increased to 371 840 tonnes in 2014 (more than 39.25 percent of the total fishery production). The role of fisheries as a contributor to the Iranian economy is very small, its share of the agricultural sector is also very low, but with good potential for increases in production, it seems likely that its contribution to the country's economy will also increase in the future.
    Promotion and management of the sector
    The institutional framework
    The Iranian Fisheries Organization (Shilat), which governs all fisheries activities in the country, is responsible for fisheries development including both the aquaculture and fisheries industries. It is affiliated with the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture and the Head of the Iranian Fisheries Organization has the rank of Vice Minister.

    The main responsibilities of the Iranian Fisheries Organization within the aquaculture subsection are as follow:
    • Aquaculture development research and implementation.
    • Planning and preparation of the national development plans.
    • Identification and training in the aquaculture sector.
    • Improvement of existing farmers' knowledge.
    • Promotion of new culture systems.
    • Fish stock enhancement programmes.
    • Investment in aquaculture infrastructure.
    The construction and operation of any fish farms require licences and consists of three steps:
    1. Acceptance of the plan (primarily agreement).
    2. Permission for construction of the farm.
    3. Farm operation and production licences.
    It should be noted that some traditional and small-scale aquaculture does not need to follow this procedure. All fisheries offices in the local area can issue permission for integrated or small-scale fish farming to be carried out.
    The governing regulations
    The legal framework of the Iranian Fisheries Organization is based on the "Protection and Exploitation of Natural Aquatic Resources Law" approved in 1997 and "Law" approved in 2009 by the Parliament. The Iranian Fisheries Organization is also responsible for the provision of related regulations and codes of practice for aquaculture management and development.

    The General Guidelines for Aquaculture and Fisheries, adopted in 1999, provides the legal framework for aquaculture activities. The guidelines indicate the authority and clarify the responsibilities of four major related organizations, including the Iranian Environmental Organization, the Iranian Veterinary Organization, Iranian Natural Resources Deputy and finally, the Ministry of Energy (Water Resource Organization).

    According to guidelines, a formal licence is required for activities such as fish farming in water bodies where aquaculture is not the major activity, for example irrigation canals and reservoirs, but they do not need to follow all the formal procedures, farmers usually obtain a letter of approval from the nearest Fisheries Department. The duties of each agency in the licencing procedure are clearly defined by the Parliament and Council of Ministers.
    Applied research, education and training
    Since 1970, the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology has organized a fisheries science course within Iran's university programmes. At present, 16 state, 10 universities of applied sciences and 36 open universities offer bachelor courses, and 12 state and 10 open universities offer master and post-graduate courses in various fields related to fisheries and aquaculture. The universities of Tehran, Shahid Chamran (Khuzestan Province), Tarbiat Modarres (Mazandaran Province) and Gorgan (Golestan Province) are the oldest universities in the field of fisheries science.

    Training and extension centres affiliated with the Iranian Fisheries Organization are alternative sources for courses in order to improve skilled manpower; these centres implement several short training courses in various fields for both illiterate and literate farmers, fishermen and related industries, as well as people with higher levels of education.

    The Iranian Fisheries Research Organization (IFRO), established in 1990, covers all fisheries research activities. It has six affiliated centres situated on the Caspian Sea (Gilan and Mazandaran), the Gulf and the Oman Sea (Khozestan for freshwater; Boushehr for shrimps; Hormozgan for the Gulf and Oman Sea; and Chabahar for Oman Sea).

    The objectives of IFRO are to perform applied research in subjects related to aquatic organisms and their environment, for example, on stock recovery, sustainable exploitation of fish resources and environmental protection in Iranian waters. These objectives are referred to in the third Iranian fisheries company constitution article that was approved on 5 February 1985 by the Ministry Council and is the subject of the second protection and exploitation law for aquatic resources of the Islamic Republic of Iran approved on 5 September 1995 by the Iranian Islamic Parliament.

    There is also an additional research institute that deals exclusively with the sturgeon resources of the Caspian Sea. The International Institute for Sturgeon Research aims to concentrate on encouraging scientists from around the world to conduct research on the Caspian Sea in Iran.

    The Supreme Committee of Research is responsible for approving fisheries research projects in the country, university professors, representatives of executive departments of the Iranian Fisheries Organization and some experienced researchers and experts constitute the members of the committee.

    The outcome of research projects are submitted to the Fisheries Organization who in turn apply the results, where appropriate, to fisheries development and improvement; subsequently, pilot projects are run and modified accordingly. The results are then transmitted to the farmers, fishermen and related industries through services such as short training courses, workshops and manual guidelines. To assist with this process, training centres are found in various locations, including coastal areas, which play a vital role in conveying the results of research to the fisheries related industries. Since 2000, all research departments affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture have been gathered into one single scheme under the Vice Minister of Agriculture for Research and Training.

    Universities have an extensive capacity for research activities; however, up until now, there is no proper systematic link between the universities and the industry. According to Iran's third five-year plan, if 40 percent of funding is allocated to research directly from the industry, the Minister for Science, Research and Technology will grant the remaining 60 percent of the funding required for these research projects.
    Trends, issues and development
    The sixth Iranian Fisheries Development Programme with a focus on developing and strengthening sustainable aquaculture will begin from April 2017.

    With successful implementation of this programme, the final production of aquaculture will increase from 371 840 tonnes in 2014 to 811 000 tonnes in 2021, which will increase aquaculture production proportion to fisheries of 39.2 percent to 45.8 percent (2021, 39.2 to 45.8).

    Fish and shrimp stock enhancement of 362 million pieces in 2014 will reach to 500 million pieces at the end of the programme in 2021. Weight of juveniles will increase from 2 g fingerlings to 15-20 g.

    During the sixth development plan, amount of infrastructure funding for the Fisheries sector, will increase from USD 300 million (year 2014) to USD 530 million (year 2021) which 60 percent will be allocated to the aquaculture sector.
    Data sources from: Planning and budget directorate of Iranian Fisheries Org. 2011.
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