The Persian Gulf ecosystem and biodiversity are being destroyed due to mismanagement, overexploitation, and lack of supervision, Tehran Times states.
Criticizing the internal and external threat to Persian Gulf biodiversity with domestic and foreign issues, Issa Kalantari, head of the Iranian Department of Environment (DOE), said that “Persian Gulf biodiversity has been abandoned due to political conflicts between international institutions.”
However, experts believe that the situation of the Persian Gulf is critical and its survival is not possible without major changes in the management policies.
Mohammad Reza Fatemi, a marine ecologist, said that “According to the law, the main custodian of the protection of the Persian Gulf is the DOE, and users, Ports and Maritime Organization, Fisheries Organization and Gas Industries, must take operational and development measures under the supervision of the DOE.”
According to Fatemi, Persian Gulf destruction has long been neglected; 90 % of the development activities in this area are done by state-run organizations with a small share of the private sector.
Despite spending lots of domestic and foreign funds, no map has been yet prepared for the Persian Gulf resources to assess economic exploitation and development in the Persian Gulf, he lamented.
The effects of poor management and marine biodiversity in the Persian Gulf can be seen in the development of trawling these days, as fish that should be caught at depths of 200 to 400 meters are caught at shallower depths, he regretted.
If adequate financial resources are available for strong surveillance, special satellite devices will be installed on the ships, he said, adding, currently, trawling is done not only by foreigners but also by local fishermen without strict monitoring.
Lack of ecosystem approach, lack of a positive and dynamic relationship with maritime organizations, and related organization is the main barrier to the protection of the Persian Gulf. The DOE cannot monitor the country’s environment with limited forces, equipment, and facilities, he highlighted.
He went on to say that in comparison to the Caspian Sea hosting 80 aquatic species, the Persian Gulf is home to over a thousand species so far. But the unique habitat is being destroyed.
Mangrove forests and coral reefs of the Persian Gulf is one of the most biodiverse habitats but is under serious threat. Oil pollution, countless ships and fishing nets floating on the sea, on the one hand, the construction of artificial islands in the surrounding countries and, most destructively, the presence of 90 % of the world’s desalination plants in the region, on the other hand, has created an ecosystem that is losing more aquatic species every day.
Urban and industrial effluents from desalination plants increase the salinity of the Persian Gulf, in addition to climate change, which has destroyed coral reefs as seawater gets warmer, while the habitat and breeding ground of three-quarters of marine species is among the coral reefs, he explained.
“In the last 30 years, the Persian Gulf has lost its ability to rebuild due to unsustainable exploitation. Many species are on the verge of extinction, facing a constant and growing threat, and the main victim of which is humans.
The decline of indigenous fishing in the south has led to illegal fishing and smuggling. Social and economic instability in addition to ecological instability has become a crisis. Wherever the economic situation is bad, the pressure on natural resources increases, and people turn to illegal fishing and put pressure on the Persian Gulf ecosystem for their livelihood,” he lamented.
Iran shares five ecological zones with specific flora from the lowest to the highest parts, one of which is the Persian Gulf-Omani ecological zone.
The forests of the Persian Gulf-Omani ecological region include part of the southwest and all southern coasts, covering 2,039,963 hectares. Due to ecological differences, the main vegetation is divided into two territories of the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.
In the Persian Gulf area, which extends from Qasr-e Shirin to the border of Bushehr and Hormozgan provinces, the plant species of Christ’s thorn jujube, Prosopis farcta, and desert poplar grow. While in the Oman Sea area, which includes a part of Hormozgan province to Sistan-Baluchestan (border of Iran and Pakistan), Mesquites and acacia species are the main vegetation covers.
Gum arabic tree, used in boat production, are scattered in this area. Mangrove forests, which consist of two species of grey mangroves and loop-root mangroves, are also spread in this area. The mangrove forest habitat is located between the tides of the seas.