The native fish species found in Iranian freshwater bodies include those in the brackish waters of the Caspian Sea. These fish comprise 155 species in three Classes, 15 Orders, 24 Families, and 67 Genera. Iran has four seasons, and is a generally dry country having little amount of rain and snowfall. Most rivers flow in the northern and western regions and are home to some native fish species such as the brown trout. However, unregulated fishing and mismanagement have seen a decline in the number of native fish species. This is a major threat facing the existence of these fish. Here are some of the native fish species of Iran.
Tibetan Stone Loach
The Tibetan stone loach, also known as Triplophysa stolickai, is a fish native to Southern and Central Asia. It can be found in many Iranian rivers where it is indigenous. It is a freshwater fish and prefers subtropical habitats of temperatures ranging between 16 Degrees Celsius to 20 Degrees Celsius. Its maximum length is 15 centimeters upon maturity. This fish species has not yet been evaluated to determine its conservation status and is less likely to be under threat because it’s of no interest for fishing companies. The Tibetan stone loach is considered harmless to humans.
The Euphrates Pupfish, Aphanius mesopotamicus, is found in the Euphrates River Basin of Iran and Iraq. It belongs to the Cyprinodontidae Family. The Euphrates pupfish is named after Mesopotamia in reference to where it is originally found. It is a freshwater fish that can be found in the subtropical region and in temperatures ranging from 15 Degrees Celsius to 24 Degrees Celsius. currently, there is inadequate information on its conservation status. It is harmless to human beings.
The Beluga sturgeon (Huso huso) is the largest freshwater fish in the world, and is native to various countries, including Iran, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Romania, and Russia. In Iran, it is found in the Caspian basin. This fish species is extremely long lived and can live up to 15 years where it attains maturity. It measures over 6 meters long with the largest ever caught measuring 7.2 meters and weighing 1,571 kilograms. The Beluga sturgeon feeds on fish and occasionally on aquatic birds. This species is classified as a critically endangered species and represents about 60% decline in catch over the last three years. Poaching in estuaries and overfishing at sea has accelerated the depopulation of the species, with most mature specimens being removed therefore reducing natural reproduction.
The Caspian Shemaya (Alburnus chalcoides) is native to the river systems feeding into the Aral, Black, and Caspian Sea Basins. It is considered to be one of the most ecologically important fish species of the region. It has a maximum length of 40 centimeters and inhabits lower reaches of rivers, estuaries, coastal lakes and brackish areas of the sea. They occur close to the water surface. Adult species feed on planktonic crustaceans, terrestrial insects, and small fish. The young fish feed on zooplanktons, insect larvae, and algae. The Caspian shemaya spawns in small rivers and streams with heavy currents or gravel bottom. They are migratory fish with the Eastern populations migrating upstream for spawning. The Caspian Shemaya is used for commercial fishing and aquaculture purposes. Overfishing and pollution in the Caspian Sea offer the main threat to its existence and is currently classified as a Least Concern species.
Other native fish species in Iran include the False Osman, Persian Sturgeon, Mesopotamic Barbel, Shatt-al Arab Catfish, Orontes Barbel, and Spirlin.