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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2015)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Inland sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Aquaculture sub-sector
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
    • Foreign aid
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
    • Regional and international legal framework
  7. Annexes
  8. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country brief

The Islamic Republic of Iran is the largest fishery producer in the region, with a 2 440 km coastline along the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea, and a 740 km coastline in the north along the southern part of the Caspian Sea. In addition, there are a number of freshwater resources. With fisheries extending over two major sea areas, the fisheries of Iran are diverse and include major demersal and pelagic resources in the marine areas and major clupeid fisheries and a valuable (but falling off) sturgeon fishery in the Caspian Sea.

Total capture fisheries production in 2014 was reported as 627 180 tonnes. Capture fisheries in the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea have more than doubled since 1998, reaching almost 536 000 tonnes in 2014. Inland fisheries (including the Caspian Sea) reached a peak of 146 000 tonnes in 1999, decreased to 51 000 tonnes in 2003, and in recent years stabilized around 85 000 tonnes per year. The Iranian Fishery Organization (Shilat; formerly Iranian Fishery Company) is the main public institution in charge of fisheries and aquaculture and has a clear mandate to manage the fishery and aquaculture sectors and to preserve living aquatic resources

Aquaculture production has increased rapidly and steadily from 27 000 tonnes in 1990 to 320 200 tonnes in 2014 representing approximately 34 percent of total fish production in 2014. Aquaculture production has been dominated by Chinese carps and rainbow trout grown in freshwater. Mariculture is still small and is focusing on shrimp culture in coastal ponds with annual production increased from 2 500 tonnes in 2006 to 22 500 tonnes in 2014 accompanied by the shift from Indian white prawn to white leg shrimp during 2007-2008. Aquaculture hatchery and nursery production also contribute meaningfully to culture based fisheries and stock enhancement. Although aquaculture development started only in the early 1980s in Iran, its growth has been rapid in the northern provinces and some of the southern coastal provinces.

The total number of people employed in fisheries has risen from 9 200 in 1993 to 186 900 by 2010, of which the number directly employed in aquaculture was 35 900. The value of fisheries commodities exported in 2014 was USD 157.9 million, while imports were valued at USD 171.9 million. The average per capita consumption of fish amounted to 9.1 kg in 2011.

Although marine fishery production has maintained an increasing trend since the 1980s, marine fish resources seem to have reached their biological limits. The main issue for state fisheries policy is how to implement a successful shift from fisheries to aquaculture. Increasing per capita fish consumption is also a major policy goal of the Government.

In recent years, Iran has needed to address some major fish stock issues. Among these are declining demersal (and some pelagic) resources in the Persian Gulf, overfishing of the important sturgeon fishery, environmental degradation and an invasion of the Caspian Sea by an exotic comb jelly which has reduced the large clupeid fisheries in the area. In the Caspian Sea, all the five major sturgeon species are currently classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its Red List of Threatened Species. There is an urgent need for the five range states of the Caspian Sea to develop a common strategy to rebuild sturgeon stocks. Iran is certainly a key player and needs to act proactively.

The Fifth Iranian Fisheries Development Programme, with a focus on developing and strengthening sustainable aquaculture, started in April 2011. With successful implementation of this programme, the final production of aquaculture is expected to 430 150 tonnes in 2014.To achieve this goal, stringent regulations and responsible management of aquaculture is essential.Iran did not ratify the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), but made a declaration. The country ratified however in April 1998 the UN Fish Stocks Agreement.Iran is a founding Member of the Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI) that is an Article XIV body under the FAO Constitution. Additionally Iran is a Member of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), Network for Aquaculture Centres in Asia and the Pacific (NACA) and Marketing Information and Advisory Service for Fish Products in the Asia/Pacific Region (INFOFISH).

Under the aegis of FAO/RECOFI, Iran is an active Member of the tripartite initiative on fisheries management cooperation in the Northern area of the Persian Gulf involving also Iraq and Kuwait, the field programme of which is currently being developed.
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - Iran -General Geographic and Economic Data

Area (km²): 1 648 000
Fresh water area (km²): 12 000
Shelf area (km2): 196 000
Length of coastline (km): 2 700
Population (2015): 79.1 million
GDP at purchaser's value (2013): USD 987 billion
GDP per head (2013): USD 6 631
Agricultural GDP (2013):

USD 104.6 billion

11 % of total GDP

Fisheries GDP (2013):

USD 4.2 billion

4 % of Agriculture GDP

*Value converted by FAO as per UN currency exchange rate
**Per capita calculated by FAO and converted as per UN currency exchange rate

Key statistics

Country area1 745 150km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area1 628 550km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Inland water area116 600km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.79.284millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2017
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area215 348km2VLIZ

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsThe tables and graphs in this section are based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2014.

Table2 - Iran - 2014

    1980 1990 2000 2010 2012 2013 2014
PRODUCTION (thousand tonnes) 52.9 269.1 424.5 663.7 838.7 884.5 947.4
    Inland 12.8 69.9 160.0 288.8 369.0 398.6 388.9
    Marine 40.1 199.2 264.6 374.9 469.6 485.9 558.5
  Aquaculture 9.3 27.1 40.6 220.0 296.5 325.3 320.2
    Inland 9.3 27.1 36.5 213.7 286.4 312.6 297.6
    Marine 0.0 0.0 4.1 6.4 10.2 12.7 22.6
  Capture 43.7 241.9 384.0 443.7 542.1 559.2 627.2
    Inland 3.5 42.7 123.5 75.1 82.7 86.0 91.3
    Marine 40.1 199.2 260.5 368.5 459.5 473.2 535.9
TRADE (USD million)              
  Import 44.2 14.1 35.6 86.9 70.6 64.0 101.0
  Export 17.4 50.6 50.0 210.3 211.1 253.9 243.5
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
  Capture 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
FLEET(thousands boats) ... ...
  Fish food supply (thousand tonnes in live weight equivalent) 40.8 220.7 322.1 640.4      
  Per Capita Supply (kilograms) 1.0 3.9 4.9 8.6      
  Fish Proteins (grams per capita per day) 0.3 1.1 1.4 2.4      
  Fish/Animal Proteins (%) 1.7 6.8 7.1 10.3      
  Fish/Total Proteins (%) 0.4 1.5 1.7 2.8      

Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics

1) Excluding aquatic plants

2) Due to roundings total may not sum up

Figure 1 — Iran — Total fishery production
Figure 1 — Iran — Total fishery production

Figure 2 — Iran — Production of aquatic plants
Figure 2 — Iran — Production of aquatic plants

Figure 3 — Iran — Capture production
Figure 3 — Iran — Capture production

Figure 4 — Iran — Major species groups in capture production
Figure 4 — Iran — Major species groups in capture production

Figure 5 — Iran — Composition of capture production – 2014
Figure 5 — Iran — Composition of capture production – 2014

Figure 6 — Iran — Aquaculture production
Figure 6 — Iran — Aquaculture production

Figure 7 — Iran — Major species groups in aquaculture production
Figure 7 — Iran — Major species groups in aquaculture production

Figure 8 — Iran — Import and export value of fish and fishery products
Figure 8 — Iran — Import and export value of fish and fishery products

Figure 9 — Iran – Major species groups in import
Figure 9 — Iran – Major species groups in import

Figure 10 — Iran – Major species groups in export
Figure 10 — Iran – Major species groups in export

Figure 11 — Iran — Per capita supply of fish and fishery products
Figure 11 — Iran — Per capita supply of fish and fishery products

Figure 12 — Iran — Composition of total fish food supply - 2011
Figure 12 — Iran — Composition of total fish food supply - 2011

Updated 2015Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sector

The long Iranian coastline, coupled with a diversified continental climate suitable for various types of aquaculture, makes Iran a large producer of fish. There are three fisheries sectors in the country:

-The Southern Fishery (the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman);-The Northern Fishery (the Caspian Sea); andInland fisheries and aquaculture.

In 2014, the three sources produced 947 000 tonnes of fish, with 536 000 tonnes (56.5%) from southern capture fisheries; 39 600 tonnes (4.2%) from Northern capture fisheries, inland capture fisheries (52 000 tonnes) and aquaculture (320 000 tonnes), both together provide 372 000 tonnes (39.3%) respectively. However, possibilities to further increase the catch from wild natural resources are very limited as stocks are subject to over-fishing, pollution and illegal fishing operation. Attempts have been made, and some are in progress, to improve matters through fish stock enhancement programs, conservation of fish stocks, fisheries management and a buy-back scheme intended to reduce fishing effort by withdrawing surplus fishing licenses.In contrast, the further development of aquaculture is promising due to the vast land and water areas as well as suitable and diverse climatic conditions.

Marine sub-sector

Catch profile

Total fish landings in southern Iran have been increasing steadily during the last decade reaching at 536 000 tonnes in 2014. In 2014 landings were composed of: demersal species (177 000 tonnes), large pelagic species (279 000 tonnes), small pelagic species (65 600 tonnes), shrimp (8 570 tonnes) and lantern fish (5 600 tonnes). Purse seine fisheries for tuna in the NW Indian Ocean have also grown during this period and landed 25 100 tonnes of tuna in 2014. In 2014 Iran was the second largest producer of tuna in the Indian Ocean and the largest producer in the northwest part of this Ocean.Beach seine operations and fisheries for Kilka and sturgeon are important in the Iranian part of the Caspian Sea. In2014 total fish landings along the Iranian Caspian coast reached 39 600 tonnes, of which sturgeons accounted for 41 tonnes, kilka for 22 800 tonnes and bony fishes for 16 700 tonnes. The landings of bony fishes were made up of: kutum (Rutilus frisii; locally called "white fish"), grey mullet, carps, pikeperch, breams, herrings, and a few other species. Harvesting of sturgeon is controlled and undertaken by the Iranian Fisheries Research Organization in collaboration with the Iranian Fisheries Organization (Deputy for Fishing and Ports Affairs). Kilka resources are exploited by the private sector which operates motorized vessels equipped with conical nets and light attraction devices. For the inland capture fisheries, the landing is increasing. Landing from inland capture fisheries increased from 20 000 tonnes up to 52 000 tonnes in 2014. The inland resources mainly depend on stock enhancement program by the government (Iran Fisheries Organization).

The Southern Fisheries

The Iranian coast; the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman is approximately 1800 km long. Conditions for fishing are good on this coastline. The water body facing this coastline is rather narrow and fishing areas are strictly limited. However, The Coastal States with an interest in these fisheries have concluded a number of bilateral agreements that regulate fishing in the area (through RECOFI and bilateral agreement e.g. Pakistan, Iraq, Oman, Kuwait…). For Iranian fishermen the Arabian Sea is the gateway to the northwest (NW) Indian Ocean and the opportunity to harvest tuna and other highly migratory large pelagic species. It has been a tradition for Iranian fishers to fish offshore and in the last few decades the purse seine fishery and long gillnet have become the established fishing method for Iranian fishers in the international waters of the NW Indian Ocean (Table 3)

Table3 – Major species group in Capture fisheries (tons) in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman (2003-2014)

  2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
L. Pelagic 160432 177195 195545 225374 176926 163790 176541 187610 207438 235830 239593 279301
S. pelagic 25000 24800 19094 26311 30164 35844 28571 23740 36320 38256 50266 65632
Demersal 106596 106230 119725 116811 115031 128522 126488 139655 147437 170007 170885 176787
Shrimp 7100 5940 9128 5951 7450 8687 8769 7603 6861 8948 8789 8567
Lantern           5137 7753 9897 13841 6660 4125 5578
Total 299128 314165 343492 374447 329571 341980 348122 368505 411897 459701 473658 535865

The Northern Fisheries (Caspian sea)

The southern coast of the Caspian Sea is part of northern Iran. The coast runs for about 900 Km, and is the site inter alia for tourism, fisheries, aquaculture and transportation. Due to a lenient climate and a vast forest area, tourism is very popular in this region. Another characteristic of the southern Coast of the Caspian Sea is its high population density along the coast line (Table 4).

Table 4 – Landings (tons) of the Iranian capture fisheries in south Caspian Sea from 2003 to 2014

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Bony fish 16573 15665 21845 23802 23538 20045.5 18665 16601 17034 16160 17146 16733
Sturgeon 463 500 416 330 225 178.5 131 94 80 68 56 41
Kilka 15497 19610 22626 22303 15411 16743 25483 27110 20717 24086 23221 22873
Total 32533 35775 44887 46435 39174 36967 44279 43805 37831 40314 40423 39647

Landing sites

Southern areas

There are more than 420 landing sites - small, medium and large - on the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Of these sites, 158 are established fish landing centers while most of the rest are small villages. Amongst the established fish landing centers, 63 are designated as fishing ports and most are supplied with fuel, electricity and drinking water as well as other fisheries infrastructures. Official fishery statistics for the Southern Region build inter alia on randomly collected data in 42 landing sites. Figure 13 shows fish landings by province and by leading landing sites.

Figure 13: Landing places in South and North Areas (marine Fisheries)
Figure 13: Landing places in South and North Areas (marine Fisheries)

Northern areas

In the Iranian part of the Caspian Sea there are 5 main landing sites. These are intended mainly for Kilka vessels. Other types of fisheries are spread out along the coast and 148 sites are allocated for beach seine fisheries. Most of them are active. Figure 7 shows the coast of the Caspian Sea and three landing sites which together account for about 4.2% of the total Iranian annual catch in 2014.

Fishing practices/systems

Southern areas

Industrial and semi-industrial fishing fleets, owned by private enterprises, operate fishing in the Persian Gulf and in the Gulf of Oman. The main fishing gears used are drift gillnets, wire traps (local name: gargoor), long lines, shrimp trawls, angling, beach seines, purse seines and some other traditional forms, such as set nets and set barrier nets. Many boats use a combination of fishing gears. In 2014, around 50 industrial vessels (purse seiners and trawlers), 3165wooden and fiberglass dhows and 7385 outboard-powered small boats fished commercially.

Northern areas

Iran’s Caspian Sea fisheries can be divided into three categories; fishing with dhows (Kilka fisheries), beach seining (Bony fish fisheries) and set Gillnet (Sturgeon Fisheries). There are about 73 dhows (wooden and fiberglass, 10 to 18 meters in length) used mainly in kilka fishing. The fishing is carried out with light and a conical lift net. Sturgeon fisheries are undertaken using fixed gill nets with a specific mesh size. Beach seining (pareh) for bony fish is organized into about working groups or cooperatives, 141 of which were active in 2014.

Main resources

Southern areas

Most of the Persian Gulf fish stocks are shared with neighboring coastal states. There is no EEZ in this area and conflicts over fishing areas are frequent. While states in the region manage demersal species, migratory species are generally exploited without effective controls.In the Gulf of Oman the situation is somewhat better. Despite a lack of recognized EEZs in this sea, there are no difficult conflicts. The continental shelf is narrow (lies inside 12 nautical miles from the coast) and deep sea fisheries outside the shelf are conducted according to long-established custom. Since 1998, artisanal fishers in the region have ventured further and further away from shore.

Northern areas

The Caspian Sea fisheries have similarities to the fisheries in the south of Iran as many of the most valuable stocks, and sturgeon in particular, are shared stocks. Therefore fishers are likely to benefit from stock enhancement no matter where in the Caspian Sea fishing is carried out. The situation holds true not only for sturgeon but also for the fisheries of bony fishes like kutum, carps, and mullet. In 2014 Iran released more than 287million fingerlings along the southern Caspian Coast through the Iranian Stock Enhancement Program. Recently, through the intervention of CITES, other riparian states have been encouraged to protect the wild sturgeon stocks and to establish Caspian Sea stock enhancement programs.

Management applied to main fisheries

Southern areas

Available data show that in the Persian Gulf despite high investment in fisheries management and stock enhancement, the standing biomass of some very valuable species such as shrimp, silver pomfret and demersal species have declined dramatically during the last decade. Fisheries legislation is in place, but compliance has been limited. Despite significant public investments in conservation and in surveillance activities, illegal fishing is still common. Like many other nations, Iran has overcapacity in its fishing fleets, where fishing effort of which exceeds sustainable levels. Simultaneous political, social and economic pressures lead to a further expansion of fishing effort. It is extremely difficult to allocate access to resources amongst competing user groups. However, there are some management measures, such as closed seasons and fishing effort controls, are in place. Shrimp fisheries are open in each province (Boushehr, Hormozgan, Khozistan) only for 45 days/year. When the CPUE falls below a certain level, the shrimp fishing season is closed. Limits on engine power and on vessel-size are enforced by the government in collaboration with the Fisheries Cooperatives.

This complex and difficult context is further complicated by the fact that each coastal state in the Persian Gulf has its own legislation for fisheries management. So far the Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI) – the only regional body for fisheries management in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman – has not been successful in harmonizing fishery management measures.

The Government has attempted to improve the resource situation by (i) enhancing stocks of shrimp and of some demersal species and (ii) by constructing artificial reefs to compensate for the degradation of fishing grounds caused by bottom trawling. Although the result of these trials is promising, the pressure on wild resources continues at a level that is beyond what the resources can sustain. .

In order to protect fish resources in the Persian Gulf, the Iranian government has launched a buy-back scheme for vessels engaged in bottom trawling. This has led to a substantial reduction in the number of steel-hulled vessels.

Northern areas

Although total landings have been almost stable, catches of certain preferred species, such as sturgeon, have declined dramatically in the past decade. Fisheries legislation has been enacted, but compliance has been limited. Despite huge public investments in conservation and surveillance activities, illegal fishing is still common. Like in many other nations, Iran has overcapacity in its fishing fleet and, correspondingly, excess fishing effort, resulting in falling catch rates. In addition, environmental challenges continue, with extremely high water temperatures in summer, and environmental degradation from dredging, land reclamation and dam constructions on rivers entering the Caspian Sea.A jellyfish, Mnemiopsis leidyi, originating in South America, affected marine resources in the Black Sea, and from there spread to the Caspian Sea where it was identified by Iranian scientists in early 1999. This species feeds on the larvae and eggs of kilka and other fishes. So stocks of kilka have diminished as have the fisheries. Catches fell from 95 000 tonnes in 1999 to 16 700 tonnes in 2008, although there are some signs of slow recovery in 2014.In order to promote sustainable exploitation of the fish resources in the Caspian Sea, a number of preventive measures have been taken, but lack of communication and collaboration among the coastal states have caused difficulties. Although official records show that landings of sturgeon and bony fishes have fallen, illegal fishing has increased. In the absence of proper management for the whole Caspian Sea, Iran has invested substantial public funds in a buy-back scheme (repurchasing fishing licenses) to prevent further erosion of exploited fish stocks. In 2002, the Iranian parliament authorized the government to reduce the kilka fishing fleet in the Caspian Sea, and about 134 vessels were bought back as their licenses expired in 2003. In fact in southern fisheries the government did the same act for bottom trawl vessels and some 110 were bought from the owners of the vessels to reduce fishing efforts on demersal species especially shrimp resources.The gillnet fishery for bony fishes by the private sector is not permitted due to negative effect on the sturgeons resources. To counteract the reduction in sturgeon resources in the Caspian Sea, stock enhancement was started as early as in 1973, and since then millions of fingerlings have been released annually. In 2014, more than 287 million fingerlings of various fish species were released into the southern part of the Caspian Sea. From the monitoring of landings, it seems apparent that some species, including Sturgeon, Caspian salmon and Kutum, benefit inter alia from the enhancement program carried out by the Iranian Fisheries Organization.

Management objectives

Fisheries management objectives include:
  • Stock rehabilitation
  • Protecting natural nursery ground
  • Investment on artificial reefs
  • Encouraging co-management
  • Investment on mariculture
  • Applying Responsible Fisheries
  • Applying selective Fishing methods and Gears
  • Investment on under exploited fish resources (lantern fish, hairtail…)
  • Encouraging High Sea fisheries

Management measures and institutional arrangements

Iran has the following management measures and institutional arrangements:

  • Empowerment of fishing Guard
  • Ban on new fishing license
  • Empowerment of existing Fisheries Cooperatives

Fishing communities

Southern areas

About 128901 fishers are active in Iran’s Southern Fisheries, and almost all of them were members of the 198 fisheries cooperatives. The cooperatives coordinate their activities in a cooperative union, of which there is one in each of the four coastal provinces. The cooperatives and the unions represent the fishers in negotiations with government authorities or with other economic sectors seeking to benefit from access to the sea. There is also one cooperative union for industrial fisheries.

Northern areas

Fishers in Iran’s Caspian Sea fisheries number are almost 11284 in 2014. Almost all of them are members of fisheries cooperative. There are three types of fisheries and each type has a union, representing fishers in negotiations with government authorities or other sectors whose interests may run against those of the fishers. In 2014 there were 198 cooperatives in the Northern Fisheries including 141 for beach seine, 56forkilka and 1 for sturgeon

Inland sub-sector

Iran has more than 514 000 hectares of natural and semi natural lakes, reservoirs and dams that have been allocated for fish production, yielding 52000 tonnes in 2014.Lakes, reservoirs and dams with a total water surface area of 1.5 million hectares provide a significant resource for freshwater fish production in Iran. Among them, some 489 water bodies with a combined area of some 0.51 million ha of natural and semi-natural water bodies are used for fish production. The Iran Fisheries Organization is responsible for edible/economical aquatic resources. This Organization has a plan for restocking aquatic resources in water bodies.

In 2014, about 14% of the total fish species production produced from reservoirs and natural and semi-natural waters. Most of the reservoirs are stocked with Rainbow Trout and Chinese carp (common carp, silver carp, bighead carp and grass carp). It should be noted that in 2002, to conform to the FAO statistical guidelines for data collection on fisheries, there was a change in categories, as a portion of the production from inland water bodies from then on has been classified as coming from aquaculture.

Extensive culture technologies (systems) are used in inland lakes, Dams and agricultural reservoirs, especially along Iran’s Caspian coast. These culture systems rely on stocking of fish financed by the government and are undertaken with fishermen’s participation. Catch profileAlmost all fish resources in inland fisheries are warm water species; Carps family, with more than 75% are silver carp; more than 10% is bighead and less than 20% other species like common and grass carps and some local species of the Barbus family.

Landing sitesA number of large water bodies - the Aras dam in west Azerbaijan Province, the Hamon Lake in Sistan and Baluchistan, the Hoor-al-Shadegan and Hoor-al-Hovize in south Khuzestan - are stocked with fish and important contributors to inland fisheries production.

Fishing practices/systemsThe main fishing gear used in inland fisheries is gillnet. Beach seine fishing gear is used in shallow waters.Small boats with or without engine are used in water bodies. Fishermen are from coastal villages and organized by both the Fisheries Organization and the Environmental Organization.Management applied to main fisheriesTwo organizations have the authority to manage the inland water bodies. The Environmental Organization is responsible for the introduction of new species to water bodies and provides permission after having the completion of an Environment Impact Assessment. This Organization is also responsible for non-edible/economic aquatic species in water bodies.The Iran Fisheries Organization is responsible for releasing fingerlings to the water bodies allocated for fisheries activities. The allocation of these water bodies the responsibility of the Environmental Organization and Ministry for Power.

In some cases cooperatives purchase fingerling to release to water bodies but in most cases government is responsible to grant fingerling with the aim of creation of jobs and income for local fishers around the water bodies.

Fishing communitiesAbout 74 cooperatives with 8877 fishers are organized by the Iran Fisheries Organization and have the permission to fish in inland water bodies. Although illegal fishing is common but the government has established fishers cooperative to empower them to manage the resources and catching effort. Cooperative also assist government to restock fingerlings and protect the resources.

Aquaculture sub-sectorSince the first hatchery was established in 1968, significant progress has been made in aquaculture. The production of farmed fish has risen constantly since 1985, and expanded rapidly thanks to suitable environmental conditions and the country’s climate diversity. Rivers, natural lakes, artificial reservoirs, irrigation canals, aqueducts and ponds are used for fish culture. The most popular cultured species are pikeperch, salmon, rainbow trout and Chinese and common carps. Recently, sturgeon, Barbus (Benni; local name) and grey mullet have attracted interest both from the government and private enterprises. They are seen as species with potential to be commercially cultured. In 2013, aquaculture reached 325 000 tonnes up from 91 700 tonnes in 2003 and down to 320 000 tonnes in 2014. Shrimp (22 500 tones), trout (127 000 tonnes) and carps (170 000 tonnes) were the most important species in 2014 (Table 5).Shrimp culture (Penaeus indicus) started in 1995, and has expanded rapidly since. In 1999 more than 2 000 ha of ponds were used in shrimp culture in the four southern provinces. In 2003 the “white spot” disease hit P. indicus under culture in the Khozaestan province. The following year the disease reached Boushehr province which has the most shrimp culture of the four southern provinces.

In 2004 Litopenaeus vannamei were introduced to shrimp farmers and due to their good performance its culture expanded rapidly in southern Iran. In 2014 all of the shrimp pond surface area was allocated to L. vannamei. In 2014 shrimp culture production reached 22 500 tonnes. In 2011commercial shrimp farming started in the SE Caspian coast; Gomishan and since then has continued without any disease or other obstacle.In order to provide post-larvae for shrimp culture, 37modern hatcheries had been constructed and 28 of them were modern hatcheries were in operation in 2014 to provide post-larvae for shrimp culture. They are sited at some distance from farms (3 kilometers) to minimize the risk of pollution. Shrimp culture has grown very rapidly and may continue to expand as investors from the private sector are waiting for shrimp culture permits.

Table 5 -composition of Aquaculture production (2003-2014)

  2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Carps 61084 65400 73396 77463 97262 87748 100430 121608 132177 154565 167883 170341
R Trout 23138 30000 34760 46275 58761 62630 73642 91519 106409 131000 143917 126515
Shrimp 7462 8903 3577 5700 2508 4372 5128 6359 8026 10152 12698 22475
Sturgeon             363 251 312 456 564 650
Prawn 30 27 268 270 258 275 287 298 338 341 263 70
Total 91714 104330 112001 129708 158789 155025 179850 220035 247262 296514 325325 320051

The government has recently focused on: (i) the development of sturgeon culture (cold- and warm-water species) and cage culture along the coast of the Caspian Sea; (ii) rainbow trout in the central and western parts of the country; and, on (iii) shrimp culture and cage culture along the coast of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

Recreational sub-sectorIn Iran, freshwater ornamental fish breeding and distribution is growing and has achieved a combined annual turnover of more than USD 15 million. Over 800 people are involved in this activity, At least 85 different species are currently bred in Iran. The intention of the government is to expand this activity by importing annually up to five new species to be bred and distributed. Production is centered in Kashan, Tehran, Arak and Gilan. Iran’s 5th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) aims to double employment and turnover in this sub-sector. The number of species handled by the industry will increase to 115 species during the period of the plan.

Post-harvest sector

Fish utilizationFish consumption in Iran was very low; only 1kg per capita in 1980 and increased to 7.3 kg per capita by 2008. In 2014 fish consumption reached 9.2 kg per capita, which is still far from the world average (18.9 kg in 2010).Until recently residents in the interior and urban communities ate little fish, and preferred other sources of animal protein. This is slowly changing. During the past decades processing of fish has been growing steadily, particularly canning of fish. Shrimp processing plants have been built as the supply of shrimps from capture fisheries and aquaculture has grown and the export trade developed. Most of the shrimp processing plants have been certified as safe suppliers of shrimps to the EU. Fish marketsFish marketing and distribution were poorly developed when fish consumption was low. In 1998, however, the Iranian Fisheries Organization created a unit to direct and improve fish marketing in Iran. Since then marketing has become a major priority in fisheries development. As noted above, most people in Iran live in central cities and prefer beef and chicken to fish or sea food. Fish is of little interest; in some parts of the country people have a negative image of fish. Changing people’s diets and eating habits in these areas will require long-term planning and a significant investment by the Iranian Fisheries Organization and by private enterprises.The main international market for Iranian fish and fish products is currently South East Asia, especially China. Attempts has been made recently to enter the markets in Japan, Arab world and the USA, but so far the quantities sold have been small.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorFisheries are a minor component of the national economy, accounting for 0.23% of GNP and about 4% of the total agriculture value in 2014. Although there is potential for fishing and aquaculture to grow, the average Iranian consumer is probably not yet ready for a continued rapid increase in fish consumption. Cultural and food habits mean that fish is not easily acceptable, especially in cities and rural areas of the interior.

Role of fisheries in the national economySince 2000, a major objective of the national food policy had been to increase annual per capita fish consumption in non-coastal cities in Iran, aiming at a target of 14.8 kg/person in 2020. With the exception of some species, exports of seafood were allowed only when adequate supplies were available to meet local demand. Exceptions were made for: shrimp, cuttlefish, squid, hairtail, catfish, lobster, caviar and fillets from sturgeon. However, not all exports were recorded in the official statistics. In the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman species, such as Silver Pomfret, Indian threadfin, seabream, snapper and grouper were sold abroad without official permission and without passing customs. Fisheries have developed rapidly in recent years. This is a reflection of the privatization process that was implemented as part of the First Five-Year Development Plan (1986–1990). In 2014, fisheries production including aquaculture reached 947 000 tonnes. During the plan period there was a sharp increase in fish landings from the industrial fleets, attributable to the launching of the deep-sea fishing program. In this program entrepreneurs were encouraged to venture into the deeper waters of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean to fish large pelagic species, e.g. tuna. The combined landings of the industrial and the semi industrial tuna fishing fleets increased from 4500 tonnes in 1997 to 251 000 tonnes in 2014.

TradeSince 1990 exports of sturgeon fish and fish products have fluctuated following a decline of sturgeon stocks. After an increase from USD 49 million in 1989 to USD 63.5 million in 1990, the export value of sturgeon decreased to USD 52 million in 1994 and further to USD 45 million in 1995 (mainly due to reduced caviar production). Since then, there was first a recovery to USD 55.5 million in 1999 followed by a fall back to USD 32.7 million in 2003. The 5 coastal states banned commercial fishing for sturgeon at 2010 due to reduction of sturgeon landing in Caspian coast. Since then there is a technical committee who review the statue of sturgeon fish resource and guide the states to manage the resources. Recently the banned on fishing sturgeon resources has been continued up to the end of 2017.Iran’s total export earnings from all fish and fish products reached more than US$ 250 million in 2014. Cultured shrimp improved its position amongst Iranian agricultural commodity exports to a share of more than 17%, worth USD 50 million. In 2014, Iran imported about USD 100 million of fish products, and exported about more than $US 250 million of fish, generating a positive trade balance.

Food securityMost of the Iranian fish production occurs in remote areas of the south, where food security is a concern. The expansion of aquaculture, especially shrimp culture, has therefore had a very positive impact in rural areas, where access to food is limited. As in these areas aquaculture provides both; food security and job opportunities, the fisheries industry, including aquaculture, has benefited from government support. The 5th Iranian Five-Year Plan, which started in 2011, projected that fish consumption in Iran would increase from 6.12 kg per capita in 2003 to 10.0 kg per capita in 2015. If this is achieved, the amount of fish protein in people’s daily diets will increase from 1.7 g to about 3.0 g. A fish consumption campaign was initiated in 1998 by the Iranian Fisheries Organization, focusing on urban areas in the interior. It seems to have had a positive effect on people’s diet with fish consumption in 2014 reaching 9.2 kg per capita.

EmploymentIt was estimated that about 242 184 individuals found employment in the fisheries and aquaculture sector in 2014. In the Caspian Sea region declining fish stocks was probably the main reason for the number of registered fishers decreasing slightly in recent years, from 13 000 in 2007 to 11 284 in 2014. In the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman the number of fishers increased by two thirds, from about 75 000 in 1994 to almost 128 900 in 2014, a reflection of the development of deep sea fishing and of the increased opportunities for artisanal fishers. In the same period, employment in aquaculture and inland fisheries increased from almost 11 000 in 1994 to more than 68 287 people in 2014. Although employment in transportation, processing plant, feed factories, fish meals, etc. are in the field of fisheries, but are not included in Iran Fisheries Organization’s statics. It is expected that aquaculture investment will result in a growing number of jobs during the sixth development plan period (2016 - 2020).

Rural developmentInvestment in port infrastructure and associated facilities in coastal areas, as well as provision of services mainly for small-scale fishermen, has contributed to better fisheries management and safer fishing operations. Most government investment and expenditure in the fisheries sector has occurred in remote areas, especially in the south. Government investment in fishery infrastructure, primarily harbors, increased from USD 5 million in 1995 to USD 8 million to 2001, and amounted to USD 14 million in 2002 and further to USD 83 million in 2013.Both fishing harbors and shrimp farms have provided income-generation opportunities in coastal communities where such opportunities are rare outside the fisheries sector. Although the fishing industry is relatively insignificant in Iran’s national economy, the industry can be very important for local economies, in terms of rural development and community stability.

Trends, issues and developmentThe Iranian Fisheries Organization, known as “Shilat Iran”, is responsible for fisheries management and development in the country. The head of this organization is also the Deputy Minister for Agriculture (responsible for Fisheries and Aquaculture). The Iranian Fisheries Research Organization (IFRO), under the Deputy Minister for Research and Education, was established in 1990. IFRO deals with scientific issues related to fisheries such as stock enhancement and stock assessment and collaborates with “Shilat” in fisheries management, planning and decision making. There is a third organization, the Iranian Veterinary Organization, which collaborates closely with Shilat and the IFRO. Other organizations generally have less direct involvement in fisheries, but may nevertheless have important functions. Amongst them are the Environment Organization and the Ministry for Power, Water and Electricity. Cooperatives and their unions also play important roles and operate directly under the Ministry for Cooperatives. In Iran, there are no strong NGOs in fisheries and aquaculture.

There are five year plan for fisheries development, with the 6th five year plan taking effect in 2016. The 6th five year plan anticipates fish production increasing from 950 000 tonnes in 2014 up to 1 500 000 tonnes in 2020.

Constraints and opportunities


Iran’s per capita fish consumption of 9.2kg in 2014 is well below the world average of about 18.9 kg in 2010. The Iranian government is implementing a program that intends to increase fish consumption to at least the world average. The program will act as a stimulus for fish production, particularly for aquaculture that has the potential to expand. Expansion of aquaculture will be facilitated by the availability of both domestic manpower and funds coupled with foreign expertise. The future looks promising, especially for the culture of shrimp and warm water fish species.Vast areas along the coast of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman have been allocated for shrimp farming, but in many areas farms have not yet been constructed because of a lack of expertise and funds. In the case of warm water fish farming there is an unused potential in the form of agricultural reservoirs. Productivity in existing warm water aquaculture farms is relatively low (2.5 t per ha) and it should be possible to increase this substantially. Despite good conditions around islands in the Persian Gulf, marine fish cage culture has not been developed. It is thought that such culture could provide improved income, wealth and job opportunities as well as reduce fishing pressure on marine fish resources.Lantern fish, hairtail and squid are not fully exploited and are expected to provide bases for increased the production of capture fisheries.


Some issues constrain the development of Iranian fisheries and aquaculture. Amongst the most important are the fragile conditions of marine resources in the Caspian Sea and in the southern fisheries, coupled with illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in these areas. Illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries still damage fishery resources, despite investments and efforts from both the private and public sectors to enforce existing laws and regulations. The number of legal fishers and fishing vessels generates a fishing effort levels that are much larger than what the marine resources can withstand. Reducing the number of fishers will be a challenge until alternative income opportunities are made available, especially for residents in the remote coastal areas.Although the economic context for aquaculture is good, aquaculture has a short history in Iran and a pool of expertise required to identify and explore new opportunities needs time to form. The productivity of Iran’s aquaculture farms is below the global average. Training courses have not provided practical skills to all those who require it and scientific research has made only a modest contribution to aquaculture development and/or to improvement in existing farms.Marketing is another bottleneck for the development of fisheries. It has not undergone much change during recent decades. This reflects the fact that people, especially in the interior of the country, are not fish eaters. The custom is to eat chicken and beef and it is not an easy task to make fish a common component of the diet of the people in these areas. As has been mentioned above, there has been a campaign aiming to increase fish consumption in Iran, but progress has been slow.

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies

Iran’s fisheries development plans aim to increase fish production, improve the welfare of fishers and farmers, promote exports, increase fish consumption and provide greater food security. Although the 6th Five Year Plan, developed by “Shilat Iran”, was ready at the time of writing, it had not yet been approved for implementation. In the Plan per capita availability and consumption of fish is expected to increase from 9.2 in 2014 to 14.8 kg/year in 2020.This will require a 1.5 million t increase in annual production by the end of the Plan period ( 2020).

Aquaculture is recognized as an important source for the fish needed to meet future demand. A number of schemes have been instituted by the state and central sectors to increase brackish-water and saltwater aquaculture as well as to stimulate production from cages and ponds, and freshwater production from lakes, reservoirs and rivers. This public sector effort is complemented by the private sector that has emerged as a major player in aquaculture investment, particularly in farming of shrimps and warm-water fish.

Seafood export is now recognized as a major source of non-oil export earnings in Iran. In order to protect seafood exports and satisfy EU regulations, considerable central-government support has gone into schemes to provide infrastructures at fishing harbors and landing centers. Most of these installations are intended to improve fresh fish handling as well as to provide sanitation and other supports essential for processing fish and supplying high quality fish products.

Shilat Iran, the Iranian Fisheries Organization, in line with local governments countrywide, developed its sixth Five-Year Plan (2016 - 2020) for the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, this plan focuses on:
  1. Increases of fish share in Domestic Food Security
  2. Responsible Conservation and Sustainable harvesting of Aquatic Resources
  3. Increase of productivity
  4. Improve balance of export/Import trade in fish market
This will occur through:

  • Food security through increasing domestic fish production
  • Responsible and sustainable utilization of wild fish resources
  • Proper use of infrastructure
  • Improved productivity in aquaculture
  • Quality improvement and waste reduction in fisheries
  • Market improvement
  • Fish conservation and enhancement
  • Increased fish consumption
Transfer of activities from public to private enterprises

Table 6. Fish production projections in the 6th Five-Year Plan for Fisheries2016-2020


It is expected that total annual fish production will increase from 947000 tonnes in 2014 to 1500000 tonnes in2020. The main sources of increased production of aquaculture will be shrimp culture (about 60 000 tonnes) rainbow trout fish culture (about 212 000 tonnes), and carp (about 260 000 tonnes). Shrimp culture is a very promising crop both in the south (Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman) and in parts of the Caspian Sea (Golestan province). Other new source of production will be cage culture in South and North of the country with 200000 tonnes anticipated in 2020.

Table 7- Aquaculture production projections in the 6th Development Plan

R. Trout160000170000180000195000212000
Other Fresh Water275295310325340
Cage Cult.2000050000100000150000200000
Other Marine295347422509610
Tot Aquacu471250534200618830712270811000
Stock enhancement345(m.P.)380430475500

It is not foreseen that there will be any further significant increase in the production of capture fisheries from the Caspian Sea. The Plan for these fisheries is to improve management and conservation of the fish stocks.

Table 8- Fish production Plan in Caspian Sea

Bony fish17000172001740017600 

The whole capture fisheries production is projected to increase to about 658 000 tonnes in 2020, mainly through increasing landings of large pelagic species, small pelagic and meso-pelagic species (Lantern Fish) from fishing in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and NW Indian Ocean.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers, including a Norwegian team, investigated the feasibility of developing a commercial fishery for meso-pelagic fishes (Lantern fish) in the northern Arabian Sea (Oman Sea). These studies indicated that such a fishery might be commercially feasible, especially for Benthosema pterotum, in the Gulf of Oman. This species usually concentrates in two deep daytime layers. The upper level is centered at a depth of about 150 m, while the lower layer is more diffuse and is located at around 250 m below the sea surface. The maximum average catch rate (most recent estimate) in the upper layer is about 37 t per hour and the potential annual maximum sustainable yield would be 2.3 million tonnes. Past processing of this species shows that it can be used as food, either directly as fish powder, or indirectly as fish meal. In fact he only possible local source for additional fishmeal, needed by a growing poultry and aquaculture industry, is fish meal produced from lantern fish. In the 6th Five Year Plan, a 70 000 tonnes catch of this species is indicated for the year 2020.

Table 9-Capture fisheries production projections in the 6th Five Year Plan for Fisheries, 2016-2020

S. pelagic5440064500658006730075000
L. Pelagic189800181300183000183000186500
Lantern Fish1200021600400005800070000
Total In shore436800447800471100493400523500
L. Pelagic97700102200110000116000122500
Tot Off shore103200110000119800126500134500
Tot Capture S.540000557800590900619900658000

Research, education and trainingResearchThe Iranian Fisheries Research Organization (IFRO) is mandated to undertake all types of fisheries research. It has six affiliated centers, two on the Caspian Sea coast (Gilan and Mazandaran). The remaining four are located on the South coast: at Khozestan for freshwater fisheries; at Boushehr for Persian Gulf Area fisheries, at Hormozgan for the Sea of Oman fisheries, and, at Chabahar for high seas fisheries.The objective of IFRO is to undertake applied scientific research relevant: (i) to aquatic organisms and their environment, (ii) to providing optimum protection for stocks, including promoting stock recovery, and (iii) to sustainable exploitation of living aquatic resources in Iranian waters.The “International Institute for Sturgeon Research” specializes in sturgeon resources of the Caspian Sea.The Supreme Committee for Research is responsible for approving fisheries research projects in the country. The committee is made up of university representatives, representatives of executive departments of the Iranian Fisheries Organization, other experienced researchers and experts.Research results are tested initially through pilot projects. The extension services then transmit relevant results to farmers, fishers and industries using short training courses, workshops and by publishing guidelines and manuals.

Education and trainingSince the year 2000, all research departments affiliated to the Ministry of Agriculture are coordinated by the Vice Minister of Agriculture for Research and Training.At present universities have extensive research capacity, but there is currently no systematic linkage between the universities and the fishing industry. This has not always been so. In the 3rd Five-Year Plan university-private sector joint projects could be granted up to 60 % of research costs by the Minister for Science, Research and Technology, provided the private sector could finance the remaining 40%.Since 1970, the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology has supported a Fisheries Science Course in Iran's University program. At present, some eight states and twelve open universities offer B.S. courses, and four states and two open universities offer M.S. and PhD courses, in various sciences related to fisheries and aquaculture. The Tehran University (in Tehran Province), has a long tradition in fisheries sciences as do the Universities in: (i) Chamran (in Khuzestan Province), (ii) Tarbiat Modarres (Mazandaran Province) and in Gorgan (Golestan Province)In addition, the “University of Applied Sciences” offers fisheries training courses in its two faculties, one located on the Caspian Coast (Rasht) and the other at the Persian Gulf (Boushehr). In order to meet the needs of the industry the University gives priority to practical topics. Training and Extension centers affiliated to the Fisheries Organization conduct applied training courses to improve practical skills of those employed in the industry. These centers provide short training courses in various fields for both illiterate and literate farmers, fishers and workers in the processing industries, as well as for individuals with more specialized jobs.

Foreign aidAt the end of 2010 there was no ongoing foreign assistance to Iranian fisheries. In the past UNDP and FAO have provided support for the development of Iranian fisheries in many areas, including shrimp culture, southern fisheries development, stock assessment, and reduction of by-catch. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) provided extension programs and local fisheries experts benefited from both training and technical support for many years. The Italian Government has supported a program for developing fisheries and aquaculture in the provinces of Sistan and Balochestan. This program started in 2003 and lasted until 2007. In the past various aid programs have provided local fishermen with training, equipment subsidies, equipment repairs, cheap bank loans, and support for infrastructure, including roads, ports and cold storage facilities.

Institutional frameworkThe Iranian Fisheries Organization is responsible for fisheries development in Iran. The Organization started in 1990 as a state-owned company charged to act in various fields of fisheries (fishing, processing, marketing, etc.). In early 2005, in order to monitor fisheries development and lead the fisheries sub-sector, the Iranian parliament approved a change in the function of the organization and it became a public organization with a developmental function. The organization has four General Directorates for fisheries in the south and three General Directorates for fisheries in the Caspian Sea. The head of the Organization is the vice minister for Jihad Agriculture, with a mandate to lead fisheries development throughout the country. Fisheries departments in non-coastal provinces have an indirect relation to the Organization through the Jihad Agriculture Organization in each province.

Figure 14- Organizational Chart of Iranian Fisheries Organization and Iranian Fisheries Research Organization
Figure 14- Organizational Chart of Iranian Fisheries Organization and Iranian Fisheries Research Organization

The head of the Fisheries Organization is a member of the IFRO Board which has indirect authority for identification and implementation of research projects.The Artemia Research Centre, located in northwest Iran, is responsible for research on Artemia spp. It also monitors and gives advice to the Fisheries Organization on the management of the Artemia harvest in the Orimia Lake. Links:

Legal frameworkRegional and international legal frameworkThe Iran Fisheries Organization is responsible for Iran’s fisheries and aquaculture development. The Iran Fisheries Organization represents Iran in the following regional organizations:
  1. RECOFI – this is a regional committee for fisheries in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. The RECOFI is responsible for regional fisheries management and a scheme for collaboration and coordination of 7 member states under FAO rule and regulation.
  2. NACA – it is the network for aquaculture in Asia and Pacific. Iran is member of this network for aquaculture development and collaboration.
  3. INFOFISH –Iran is member of INFOFISH for marketing collaboration and information transfer.
  4. IOTC – Indian Ocean Tuna Commission is under FAO’s rule and regulation for Tuna Fisheries in the Indian Ocean. Iran participates fully in this Commission.
  5. Caspian Sea Commission for Aquatic Resources- a Commission among five coastal states for collaboration and coordination in fisheries management.
Other than these regional cooperation, there are bilateral agreement on fisheries and aquaculture with countries mainly in Asia and Europe.


Iranian Fisheries year Book.
Ministry for Jihad Agriculture year Book.
Iranian Statistic and Information Organization.
Iranian Central Bank.

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