Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

Status of Aquaculture in Iran: Past, Present, and Future

Homayoun Hosseinzadeh


Iran is a moderate contributor to regional fish production and the regional fish trade. Unlike most other Asian countries, aquaculture is not a traditional activity in Iran. Although aquaculture has been practiced worldwide for 2,000 years (Joseph 1990), this activity began in Iran with sturgeons Acipenser persicus borodin and A. gueldenstaedti and rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss only in 1922 and 1959, respectively (Maghsoudi 1988).

Inland water resources (0.5 million ha have already been used, from a 1.5 million ha potential), including reservoirs, lagoons, natural water bodies, and dam lakes, were subjected to the release of fingerlings. We released fish seed in some of them, but others have natural stocks for fish seed production. Their productivity is satisfactory. The main species that were released included common carp Cyprinus carpio, bighead carp Hypophthalmichthys nobilis, and silver carp H. molitrix. Production of these bodies of water is listed in Table 1, by province. One-hundred thirtythree species of fishes have been identified from these resources, among which only 15 species are of economic importance. The total area of inland water bodies, including lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and pools, is estimated to be about 1.5 million ha. To exploit the potential of these waters, serious measures have been taken to enrich them by means of releasing rainbow trout and various species of carp seed into them. For instance, in 1993, the fishery resources of 486 such water bodies covered an area of 513,789 ha for commercial purposes or sport fishing throughout the country.

A concentrated effort to develop inland aquaculture was not initiated before the early 1980s, in three provinces (Gilan, Mazandaran, and Khouzestan) with adequate freshwater supply. Its development has since been expanded to cover most of the 25 provinces in the country, with coastal aquaculture being introduced recently for the production of highly regarded marine products (Emadi 1989). At present, nine government-run fish hatchery units and two shrimp hatcheries are actively operating in different provinces.

Because there was a decline in the catch of Eastern bream Abramis brama orientalis and zander (perch) Sander lucioperca in the Caspian Sea, the breeding of these species was been started by the fisheries sector in 1990 (Iran 1998). To increase the shrimp population in the Persian Gulf, the aquaculture department started a joint project with the United Nations Development Programme in the Hormozgan Province, which established a pilot hatchery for shrimp production (Matinfar 1989).

In 1999, total fisheries and aquaculture production was 400,020 mt, of which inland waters production was 75,000 mt. The per capita consumption is 4.5 kg in Iran, whereas it is 13.5 kg in the world. Table 2 shows the total fisheries and aquaculture production in Iran.

More than 30 years ago, the main consumers of fish and aquatic products were the people in the south and north of Iran, who attempted fishing with traditional methods to provide food. A lack of safe roads and a shortage of suitable vehicles and fish processing and storage has been one of the main reasons that the people living in areas other than near the shore were not familiar with fish consumption (Kavousian and Yazdanparast 1997). With the development of the roads, increased availability of transportation and food protection facilities, and the presentation of advertising programs— for acquainting people with the properties and benefits of marine food—by mass media, the per capita rate of consumption gradually increased, and today, in most of the cities, towns, and villages, people are accustomed to the benefits of fish consumption and even show much interest in it (Nikfetrat 1998).