year-end bonanza that awaits the fisherman of Dhofar is phenomenal and
unparalleled elsewhere in the Sultanate. The coastal waters in the southern
tip of Oman turns into a veritable goldmine during the two-month period
of November-December, yielding an unbelievably rich harvest of lobsters
and abalone, premium marine delicacies which sway the international
fisheries market. The good news, especially in the case of abalone,
is scintillatingly strong to financially sustain the fishermen till
the next season a year later. Today, at RO75 a Kg, raw abalone commands
the highest price among fishery products, lavishing a largesse on the
Dhofari fishermen. Last year, the abalone catch in Dhofar stood at 43
going, however, is not easy as one may think and a successful abalone
season is assured for only those who can persevere with hard toil. Boulders
and crevices up to depths of six metres from the abalone habitat where
fishermen, as per government regulations aimed at conserving the abalone
stock, can dive with out the aid of oxygen, tanks to pluck their share.Dhofar's
wilayat of Sadah tucked away in the deep along Jabal Samhan holds most
of the Sultanate's richest marine treasures. The best of abalone and
lobsters are found in the wilayat besides the top quality Al Hojary
frankincense which also originates from its pristine environment.
has been fiercely slow in adapting itself to the changes of modern living,
in all probability out of a deep respect for the land and sea which
nurture the 4000-strong population. The people's obsession to guard
their prime land is all the more strong from the fact that had they
opted to transform the area, it would not have been difficult with the
funds at their disposal. Modern houses could be the only exception in
the otherwise scenic stretch steeped in antiquity.
reach Sadah, the drive from Salalah will take you to the point before
Mirbat to turn to the left for a bumpy ride on the gravelled road for
about 90 minutes. On the way, a commemorative block shows abalone, the
main source of income for the people, as the wilayat's symbol. Though
available for only tow months of the year, abalone wealth is unmathched
as a single fisheries product. The bulk of the delicacy is devoured
by the Far-Eastern market.
for abalone can be taken up by only those who are physically very fit.
The best of divers with staying power of up to two minutes under water
can go to depths of nearly seven metres. While the most experienced
divers may opt to dive deeper, youngsters choose to stay closer to shore
and dive in depths up to four metres. Many a danger lurk in the depths
and unless one is properly oriented, he may end up getting hurt. These
days, divers are properly equipped with goggles, suits which cover the
entire body, shoes and gloves for the abalone search. The gear is incomplete
with knives which the fishermen carry to force out abalone from rocks
and corals as well as to scrape out abalone flesh from the ear shaped
fishermen do continuous diving for two hours and the resultant catch
could average two Kg of abalone valued at RO 150. Abalone which cling
together on rocks and corals are plucked out with the help of the knife
and deposited in the net bags tied around the waist of the divers. The
biggest size of abalone will be no larger than 10 centimeters in diameter.
About 15 of them could make up a Kg after being removed from the shell.Traders
buy abalone removed from shell and process them which mainly involves
boiling in sea water in about two hours. Sea water is used for boiling
Abalone to retain its full nutritional value.
boiled Abalone are then spread out on large meshed stands and dried
under sun for two weeks. The dried Abalone can be preserved for over
a year. Even though raw Abalone can be consumed, the market for it is
limited, probably in view of the high price it commands. Hence, most
of the abalone from Dhofar are dried for the export market. Nearly 3
Kg of raw abalone are required to form 1 Kg of dried variety which currently
fetches RO 250 in the international market. The delicacy dishes include
soups and other preparations. While raw abalone can be chewed easily,
the dried ones are a bit harder for the teeth.
traders operate in Hadhbeen and other areas to provide instant cash
to fishermen who bring in abalone. This year the demand for abalone
is quit high as a company went to the extent of even paying an advance
of RO 400,000 to fishermen to supply their abalone catch. Even as the
season is drawing to a close, dried abalone is being dispatched to the
export market regularly. The restrictions placed on abalone catch have
helped in the surge in price of the delicacy.
RO 9 a Kg some years ago to the present RO75, Said Ali Shamas al Amri,
a leading abalone trader in Sadah, said. Al Amri has wealth of experience
in abalone export which he learned from his father who started the family
business. Last year, Al Amri exported three tones of abalone, mainly
to Hong Kong. This year, he hopes to increase the trade to four tones.
Jaman Ahmed Darwish is another trader operating in Hadhbeen. He also
actively engages in diving to supplement his income. Darwish, however,
sends his consignments to Muscat from where the same are exported to
has to be taken up with extreme precaution as sea snakes, octopuses
and other poisonous sea creatures could spell harm. One of the divers
in Hadhbeen pointed to a large scar on his forehand saying he was bitten
by some dangerous fish. He also narrated a few cases of divers who were
found dead in the water. The fishermen strictly abide by the government
regulations on abalone catch during the two month season, the wali said
adding that the citizens themselves patrolled the coast to cheak overfishing.
Dhofar coast is an exclusive belt in the Sultanate where abalone abounds
at commercially viable stocks. Nowhere else can this delicacy be found
in Oman at a level to sustain the fishing community. However, the Marine
Science and Fisheries Centre has launched a abalone culture project
wherein its stock enhancement is targeted through a seed production
system. Initial experiment proved successful with the production of
4,000 abalone larvae whose growth is being monitored in rearing tanks
at the Raysut Laboratory. The study has being taken up at a large scale
at a new site in Mirbat in the second phase of the abalone culture project.
strong seasonality of the regional upwelling and the associated changes
in sea temperatures and macro-algal abundance are reflected in the life
history of abalone in Dhofar, the study added.
from Oman Observer. Nizwa.NET is not responsible for errors.