Iran is a major diversity hotspot in the wider European region. It is mostly inhabited by characteristically European species, but also has a few south and Central Asian ichthyofaunal elements. While all IUCN Red List drafts for the species of the Eastern Mediterranean have been reviewed this spring in Jordan (see June 2013 FFSG Newsletter), it was not possible to review the Iranian taxa due to entry visa problems.
The IUCN Red List is believed to really make a difference for fish conservation and funding in Iran and so we made several efforts to fill the gap. Professor Hamid Reza Esmaeili, from the Ichthyology Research Laboratory of the Shiraz University, Iran had already compiled all the data in spring and information needed for the Red List review, but it was not until August 2013 that we met in person at the University of Munich in Germany. Hamid and I spent two long and busy days together (also linked to Kevin Smith from IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Unit via Skype and telephone) to review all the draft assessments of the Iranian species, including taxa known to be widespread in the area. As we originally surmised, the number of threatened species in that arid and highly impacted area proved to be quite high. For example, the number of independent springs inhabited by the tooth-carp Aphanius farsicus has dropped from ten down to one during the last 10 years. All but one Aphanius species made it on the Red List, as did many other endemics from the small rivers of the Persian Gulf. It should be noted that the bigger species in the area are overfished - such as the ‘large barbs’ from the Euphrates and Tigris. We currently lack new, reliable data on threat status and geographical distribution, especially for the endemic species of the southern Caspian Sea and the Lake Urmia basin. Much important work remains to be done!