The Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf remained the country's two
largest fishing areas. A variety of fish were found in both bodies
of water; catches totaled 44,800 tons in 1981 and 34,500 tons
in 1983. Fishing in the Persian Gulf has declined since the onset
of war with Iraq. By 1986 national freshwater catches totaled
only 25,000 to 35,000 tons per year.
Commercial fishing was controlled by two state-owned enterprises,
the Northern Fishing Company operating in the Caspian Sea and
the Southern Fisheries Company in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf
of Oman. Sturgeon, white salmon, whitefish, carp, bream, pike,
and catfish predominate in the Caspian, and sardines, sole, tuna,
bream, snapper, mackerel, swordfish, and shrimp predominate in
the Persian Gulf.
The Caspian sturgeon was of particular importance because it
produces the roe that is processed into caviar. Known as "gray
pearls," Iranian caviar is said to be the finest in the world
and commands a high price. The main importers of Iranian caviar
were the Soviet Union and the West European countries. Increasing
pollution in the Caspian Sea, however, posed a threat to the industry.
Data as of December 1987