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Lake Profile

Caspian Sea

General Information

Description The Caspian Sea is the largest lake in the world by volume. It is also thought to be one of only a handful of ancient lakes on earth.

It is generally believed that about 90 percent of all the world's sturgeons swim in the Caspian Sea. Seven species or subspecies of sturgeon populate the Caspian, giving it the greatest diversity of sturgeon in the world.

The Caspian Sea is an endorheic, or terminal lake, meaning that its water does not reach the ocean. Because of this, minerals build up in the water as it evaporates and the lake usually becomes saline. Endorheic lakes are usually more sensitive to pollution than waterbodies that drain to the ocean.

Country Azerbaijan
Russian Federation
Latitude 40° 0' 0" (40.0000)
Longitude 51° 0' 0" (51.0000)


 Caspian Sea global index map (LakeNet Explorer)
 Largest Lakes in the World by Area (LakeNet Explorer 2004)
 Largest Lakes of the World by Volume (LakeNet Explorer 2004)
 Caspian locator map
 Ancient Lakes of the World
 Lake Basin Management Initiative (LakeNet Explorer)

Physical Characteristics

Description The Caspian's largest inflow is from the Volga River.
Volume 78,200.00 km3
Surface Area 436,000.00 km2
Depth Mean depth: 187.0 m
Maximum depth: 1,025.0 m
Residence Time 250.0 years
Age 2 million - 20 million years before present
Origin Tectonic
Type Saline
Catchment Catchment size: 1,400,000.00 km2
Catchment/surface area ratio: 3:1


Economic Value Biological resources of the Caspian, mainly fish resources, are estimated at 5-6 billion USD per year.
Major Cities

Watershed Management

Description Azerbaijan, Iran and Kazakhstan all have national action plans for the Caspian. There have been transboundary efforts as well.
Watershed Action Plan Implementation underway
Issues 125 thousand square km. of the coast around the Caspian Sea is severely degraded. Parts of the Caspian coast are experiencing desertification due to overexploitation and poor management. Overgrazing and deforestation in the watershed have led to increased erosion.

Severe overfishing has decimated fish species and caused sharp declines in catches. Between 1920 and 1940, the most common commercial species were the Caspian lamprey, Volga shad, Caspian trout, and Caspian inconnu. The total catch of these species was about 80 thousand tons. All these species are now included in the Red Books of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, and other Caspian states. In the Islamic Republic of Iran over-fishing of Caspian trout, bream, and zander, along with the damage of their habitats and spawning grounds, has resulted in an almost complete loss of these species. The Caspian zander disappeared due to massive catches in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

During the last twenty years, the sturgeon catch has declined by 88 percent. 90% of the Beluga spawning grounds are gone due to dams. Poaching may take up about 12 times the volume of the official catch.

More research is needed on the impact of invasive species on the Caspian. The comb jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi has recently been discovered.

Other Issues Fisheries
Invasive Species
Polluted runoff
Watershed habitat alteration
Specific Contaminants Mining

Biodiversity Conservation

Description The Caspian Sea may be home to as many as 54 endemic fish species (out of 133 total), 190 endemic zoobenthos species (out of 380) and 64 endemic zooplankton species (out of 315 species).
Designations LakeNet Biodiversity Priority
Species of Concern Species in the Caspian listed in the Red Book as endangered include 63 birds, 41 mammals, and 27 fish.



Addressing Transboundary Environmental Issues in the Caspian Environment Programme-Regional
Biodiversity Conservation of the World's Lakes: A Preliminary Framework for Identifying Priorities
Caspian Environment Programme
Caspian Environment Programme: Technical Reports & Studies Download Library
Central Asia Commerce Business and Resource Directory
Crop Explorer - Global Reservoir and Lake Elevation Monitoring
Crop Explorer - Lake Level Variations from TOPEX/POSEIDON and Jason-1 Altimetry for Caspian Sea
ILEC Database
Interactive Map of the Caspian Sea
Mnemiopsis leidyi in the Caspian


1/4/2006 - Ban on Trade in Wild Caviar as Sturgeon Stocks Plunge
3/23/2004 - Slimy stowaway may be key to saving distant seas
3/23/2004 - UN Gives Caspian States Deadline on Caviar Ban
3/19/2004 - Clash over caviar reprieve in Caspian
3/7/2004 - Natural allies? Ecological concerns unite rivals
1/21/2004 - Baku says bilateral agreements insufficient for dividing Caspian
1/7/2004 - Kazakh Scientists Sound Alarm over Radioactive Waste Dump Near Caspian
11/20/2003 - Russisa halves caviar production , bids to boost sturgeon stocks
11/5/2003 - Convention for Protection of Caspian Environment signed in Iran
3/6/2002 - Caspian caviar ban lifted
11/28/2001 - Bilateral format discussed for Caspian Sea
10/16/2001 - Will Caspian oil wipe out the sturgeon?
10/2/2001 - Ten percent of Caspian seals died last year
8/29/2001 - Caspian environment polluted by oil pipeline leak
8/1/2001 - Caspian Sea: Russia joins fishing ban on endangered sturgeon
7/26/2001 - Caspian Sea: Black caviar becomes rarer with ban; ecologists support 20-year ban

Additional Data Sources

Birkett, C., and I. Mason. 1995. A new global lakes database for remote sensing programme studying climatically sensitive large lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 21 (3) 307-318.
Duker, L. and L. Borre. 2001. Biodiversity conservation of the world's lakes: a preliminary framework for identifying priorities. LakeNet Report Series Number 2. Annapolis, Maryland USA.
Herdendorf, C. 1982. Large lakes of the world. Journal of Great Lakes Research 8:379-412.

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