Iranian environmentalists warn that the seal population in the Caspian Sea has dropped from one million to 100,000 in the past ten years.

Abdolreza Karbasi, the deputy head of Environmental Protection of Iran, told the Fars News Agency yesterday that the unregulated seal hunt is to blame for the steep decline. He added, however, that Iranian seal hunters follow strict regulations, while neighbouring countries have been over-hunting seals for their skins.

The Caspian Sea, the world’s largest lake, borders Iran to the south, Russia to the north, the Republic of Azerbaijan to the west and Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to the east.

Karbasi maintained that ever since the number of countries bordering the Caspian Sea increased from two to five, the lake’s resources have been depleted at a higher rate.

Analysts have said the decline in wildlife populations can be traced to lake pollution mainly caused by oil exploration and extraction activities.

Karbasi said Iran is not involved in oil exploration in the Caspian Sea and, therefore, is polluting the lake far less than other countries.