Iran, which boasts the top fishery output of any country in the Middle East, exported seafood worth USD 228 million (EUR 210 million) in the nine months ending December 2023, according to Iran’s House of Industry, Mining, and Trade.
That total included 102,352 metric tons (MT) of fishery products comprising 14,036 MT of carp, 10,765 MT of trout, and 5,672 MT of flounder, among other products, according to Iran International Relations and Trade Development Committee Spokesman Ruhollah Latifi.
The nine-month export volume and earnings totals were both higher compared to the same period in 2022, when the country sold 53,800 MT of seafood to global markets worth USD 94 million (EUR 87 million). 
Iran’s seafood exports increased 19 percent by volume to 166,000 metric tons (MT) over the 12-month period ending in March 2022, with its exports by value rising 14 percent to USD 554 million (the EUR 526 million). Iran exported 143,970 tons of seafood in 2019 worth USD 528 million (then EUR 477.4 million). 
Countries in Southeast Asia purchase 75 percent of Iran’s seafood output – including shrimp, eel, squid, shark, and ribbonfish. Europe’s seafood imports from Iran include trout and lobster, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
This growth came despite the fact that Iran is under international trade sanctions imposed by the U.S. and E.U. over its nuclear development program and alleged human rights violations. 
To make up for the loss of these large markets, the country’s exports of shrimp to Russia another market that is currently under trade sanctions in several Western countries because of its 2022 invasion of Ukraine increased by nearly 50 percent year over year in the nine months of 2023, reaching 13,055 MT.
Other key seafood markets for Iran include China, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq, though the Iran Fisheries Organization (IFO) has indicated that sales to destinations such as China and the U.A.E. have slowed.
Nonetheless, according to the IFO, the boost in Iranian seafood exports has been linked to steady expansion of the country’s aquaculture industry, as well as innovative sector policies put in place by the IFO and other governmental organizations to mitigate the negative effects of trade sanctions.
IFO Head Hossein Hosseini said Iran has the potential to export USD 2 billion (EUR 1.8 billion) worth of seafood and ship at least 2.6 million MT of seafood products to global markets annually once the country fully implements its fisheries development plan that was launched in 2022 and ends in 2026. The plan calls for an increase of marine fishery output to 1.06 million MT in the coming three years, an uptick in aquaculture output to at least 1.5 million MT by 2025. The plan calls for a big investment in salmon, shrimp, and tilapia farming, with help from the private sector, as part of an emphasis on species diversification toward high-yield fish species; and a push for more efficient water recycling and other policies geared toward improved sustainability.
The country’s fishery sector is primarily comprised of demersal and pelagic resources in the Persian Gulf, as well as clupeid fisheries and valuable sturgeon fisheries in the Caspian Sea, according to the FAO. 
Iran’s government is also backing a campaign to … 

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Shem Oirere is a Kenyan journalist who previously worked for daily newspapers as a general news correspondent, business reporter and sub-editor before turning to full-time freelancing. For the more than 20 years, he has covered various sectors of Africa’s economy including agriculture, food processing, and maritime industries. A graduate of the University of South Africa, he has traveled within and outside Africa covering various industry events that have a bearing on the continent’s economy on behalf of different international consumer and trade publications. He currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya.
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