The fishing industry of Iran, in both the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, is a supplier of protein for the nation and employs thousands of persons. The long Iranian coastline, coupled with a diversified climate in the land area suitable for various type of aquaculture system, makes Iran the biggest fishing nation in the region. Iranian fisheries include the Caspian Sea, the Southern Seas (the Persian Gulf, the Oman Sea and the Indian Ocean), inland water fisheries and aquaculture.
The Southern Seas fishery had more vessels than those of the Caspian Sea. For example, there were more than 10,000 vessels in the Southern Seas fishery, but that of the Caspian Sea was just over 1,000. As of 2014, Fisheries activities in the southern waters of Iran by 11,500 vessels were ongoing. Around 6,752 vessels of this fleet were engaged in large pelagic species fishing in 2013, which four of them are industrial purse seiners, 2,202 Artisanal vessels (dhows) and 3,741 fishing boats. Around 1,200 vessels were active in tuna and tuna like fishing in the Oman Sea, and offshore waters. This means more than 80 percent of craft operate in the coastal areas and about 20% of the fishing vessels operating in distant waters. Those fishing craft and GRT of purse seiners is up to 1000 tons and GRT of Gillnetters ranges from less than 3 tons to more than 100 tons.
Gillnet and purse seine are two main fishing gears for catching tuna and tuna-like species in the IOTC area and also some of small boats used trolling method in coastal fisheries. Boat < 3 tons numbered about 3750 in 2013, while those of from 3-20 tons had droped from 750 in 2009 to 270 in 2013. Conversely, boats of 20-50 tons increased from 667 in 2009 to 1060 in 2013. The number of boats of 51-100 tons remained stable at 534 in both years, while the boats >101 tons increased from 278 in 2009 to 338 in 2013.
Development of fisheries industry has been the focus of prime attention in the I.R. of Iran. To this end, respective development objectives have heed identified among which responsible fisheries management, as a unique concept, has increasingly been given a pivotal role.
Industrial and semi-industrial fishing fleets owned by private enterprises carry out almost all fisheries in the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The main fishing gears used include drift gillnets, wire traps (local name: gargoor), longline, shrimp trawl, angling and beach seine, purse seine and some other traditional forms, such as set nets and set barrier nets. Many boats use a combination of fishing gear. In 2003, there were 62 steel-hulled trawlers, 3,011 wooden vessels and 6,764 outboard-powered small boats active in commercial fishing.
Fishing operations in the Caspian Sea are carried out with a fleet of about 750 wooden vessels (dhow type). Beach seine fishermen catching bony fish species are organized into about 150 working groups or cooperatives (2003 data). Three types of fishing gears are used in the Caspian Sea, including beach seine (pareh) for bony fishes along the coastline; lift net (conical net with light attraction) for kilka (a small pelagic fish similar to anchovy); and set gillnet for sturgeon. Fishing for sturgeon is restricted to the state-owned company due to conservation concerns.
Except for sturgeon fishery in the Caspian Sea, other fishing activities in the South, the North and Inland waters including aquaculture are carried out by private enterprises. Almost all of the fishermen in the south and the north are member of fishing cooperatives and any province has one or two cooperatives Union. Fish farmers also have their own cooperatives and Unions. There is one " Union of Fish Exporter in the country, which deals with fish trade in domestic and international market. Industrial fishing Co. (IFCO) is a parastatal company affiliated to Iranian fisheries Co. (Shilat). "SHILAT" synonymous with the English term, " Fisheries " refers to the Iranian parastatal company, responsible for the development and management of fisheries and aquaculture in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This Company in line with other private companies has to follow the rules and regulations of fisheries in I.R. Iran.
In 1997, 108,398 people were employed in Iranian fishery in total. This number was just above 170,000 in 2008. The range of fisherman in the Southern Seas was between 86,904 and 133,494. Its annual mean was 110,989 ±18178 people. The number of fishermen in the Caspian Sea in 1979 was 4,500 including bony fish, sturgeon and kilka fishermen. The Iranian Fisheries Company in the coastal provinces of the Caspian Sea employed about 1000 people for caviar production, fish smoking and salting, packaging, refrigerators workers and official em-ployers. In 1982, the number of fishermen in the Caspian Sea was 16,220 and employers in IFC were 1506. The number of fisher-men in the Southern Seas was 21,622 and the number of employers in SIFC was 1,763 in the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea.
Employment in the fisheries sector, including fish farmers and fishers, exceeded 155 000 in 2003. The number of registered fishers in the Caspian Sea increased only slightly, from 11 600 in 1994 to 14 200 in 2003, due to resource limitations, but in the Gulf of Oman fisheries increased from almost 75 000 in 1994 to more than 125 000 in 2003, thanks to deep sea fishing developments and increased opportunities for artisanal fishers.
Fish production in Iran enlarged from about 400,000 mt in 1997 to 562,000 mt in 2008. However, it was 451.189 ±66.625 mt annually between 1997 and 2008. The most important fish species in the Caspian Sea are kutum, grey mullets, Sturgeon and kil-ka. Total catch in the Caspian peaked in the year 2000, at 110,000 mt, and declined to around 40,000mt annually thereafter. Tuna fishes are predominated in the Southern Seas, which include the Persian Gulf, the Oman Sea and the Indian Ocean. Fish harvest carried out in the Southern Seas is the most important component of fisheries production in Iran. Total catch in the the Southern Seas peaked in the year 2007, at 374,000 mt, up from 260,000mt a decade earlier, and declined thereafter.
The annual consuming of fish production per person in 1979 was 1.3 kg. In 1997 and 2008, it was 3.4 and 5.6 times higher than that of 1979, meanwhile the world average is around 16 kg and the EU average is around 22 kg per person. Most people in Iran live in central cities and have beef and chicken in their diet rather than fish or fisheries products. The type of food they usually cook and their culture has harmonized with red meat. Fish is of little interest, even having a negative image in some parts.
The state-run Tasnim news agency, affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force, cited Mohammad Ali Hassanzadeh, deputy chief of the Ports & Sea Navigation Organization saying, “Chinese ships have long-term contracts with Iran to fish at the depth of 200 meters in Iran’s Gulf of Oman waters.”
Several news outlets in Iran have repeatedly reported that the Chinese vessels are involved in excessive fishing operation in the Persian Gulf waters. A member of the Supreme Council of Provinces in Iran has also lamented that overfishing by Chinese ships in waters off the southern Iranian coasts in the Persian Gulf has put seafood resources at risk. “Excessive fishing by huge and industrial Chinese ships (in the Persian Gulf) has endangered species of aquatic animals,” state-run Iran Students News Agency, ISNA, quoted Kianoush Jahanbakhsh as saying, on 10 August 2018. “What I am saying is what Iranian fishermen, locals and eyewitnesses (in Hormozgan province) say.” Bandar Abbas (Hormozgan province) representative to parliament, Ahmad Moradi said, “Overfishing by Chinese vessels in Iran's southern waters has enraged local fishermen whose livelihoods have been affected by the practice.”
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