Anzali Lagoon (also Anzali Mordab, Anzali Bay, Pahlavi Mordab, Pahlavi Bay or Anzali Liman) is a coastal liman, or lagoon, in the Caspian Sea near Bandar-e Anzali, in the northern Iranian province of Gilan. Anzali Lagoon plays the role of a filter for the rivers which flow to Caspian Sea.The lagoon divides Bandar-e Anzali into two parts, and is home to both the Selke Wildlife Refuge and the Siahkesheem Marsh.
One of the most beautiful watery landscapes in Iran is the Anzali Lagoon which is full of amazing scenes. The lagoon is one of the world’s most famous ones. Anzali Lagoon is one of last resorts of Iranian wildlife which needs to be protected against fast urbanization that has destroyed natural habitats of unique living species.
Although the lagoon suffers from pollution, it is still a heaven for local and migratory birds and also fish spawning. With more than 100 bird species and 50 fish species as well as other aquatic plants, Anzali Lagoon has become a great ecosystem in this region. The most famous water plant in the Lagoon is Caspian lotus. Hence, Anzali Lagoon is also called Lotus Lagoon.
In winter, the reed beds and islands of the lagoon still receive one of the most important gatherings of migratory birds in the world. Despite protective measures, there is still some duck hunting, especially with net snares. Large amounts of rushes and reeds are used in making mats (ḥaṣīr) and baskets and to cover the roofs of rural houses. Wet lands in the south and southeast exposed by the withdrawal of the lagoon are employed as good quality grazing land called qoroq.
The lagoon has decreased in size since the 1930s to less than a quarter of its former extent. However, in the recent years water salinity has increased both by the rise of the level of the Caspian Sea which has caused greater interchange of waters, and due to greater salt transport in incoming "fresh" water due to increased upstream irrigation.
Bandar-e Anzali stands on both sides of the entrance to the lagoon, though the port is mainly on the eastern side. It is the main port for trade with Russia, and access needs to be maintained by dredging. There is a mixed population of Russians, Armenians, Caucasians, and Turkmen.
In the 1890s as many as 300,000 carp were fished in a day; 1,300 tons were caught in 1935. Commercial fishing was done during the spring and autumn spawning cycles when the kutum, pike-perch and bream, would enter the lagoon from the Caspian. However, a number of factors acted against the continuation of the fishery and by the time commercial fishing ceased in 1960 annual catches were less than 100 tons. That heavy fishing in the past has combined with the falling water level to bring about a greatly reduced fish population: Carp have practically disappeared; Caspian roach, European pike-perch and bream are found in small quantities, and only sheatfish and kutum are still found in large number, together with goldfish, an accidentally introduced fish of low quality.