12 November 2003

Research into lost marine life helps Iran

Research at the University of Bradford is helping Iran's Government in a US$130m claim that the 1991 Gulf War damaged its fisheries industry.

Iran is making the claim to the United Nations that oil, which spilled into Persian Gulf sea following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, has affected its fish stocks and marine life.

The University's Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences has conducted tests on more than 240 samples of oil, sediment and marine life.

Director of Postgraduate Research, Dr John Dennis, who has been co-ordinating the research, said: "What we are doing is forming a forensic fingerprint. We are helping to build a prosecution case."

Dr Dennis explained that tests with Dr Ben Stern using two different types of hi-tech equipment could match the crude oil from Kuwait to residues found in the fish and other marine life.

The techniques being used, which are in the field of Environmental Forensics, enable scientists to pin point the source of the oil, even down to a specific well.

Director of the Aquatic Ecology Department for the Iranian Government, Dr Alireza Nikouyan, said: "We have to convince the United Nations and this work is central to building our case.

"There has been a noticeable reduction in the amount of fish in our waters and we think that this is as a direct result of the Gulf War."

Dr Nikouyan said he expected the claim to be submitted with the next six months, adding that he expected there to be further collaborations between Iran and the University of Bradford in the future.

Iran has more than 1000 kilometres of coastline and its fishing industry produces about 400,000 tonnes of fish each year.

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