"Oman Marine Resources"
FISHERIES <
OMAN AGRICULTURE

OMAN FISHERIES

Introduction

Oman Fisheries

+ Abalone

+ Lobster

+ Shark

 

Until 1970 the economy of the country was almost entirely based on agriculture and fishing, and was in any case virtually a subsistence economy. In the case of fishing, no facilities existed for the freezing, storage or transportation of fish, so fishermen's catches were confined to the local communities for their own consumption. There did exist a small local trade, whereby bedu tribesmen conveyed dried fish on camel-back from the coast to the towns of the Interior in return for dried dates.

The Sultanate, with a 1,700 km-long coastline extending from the Musandam Peninsula at the entrance to the Gulf in the north to the border with the Yemen Republic in the south, has extremely rich fish ing grounds, the potential of which has yet to be fully evaluated. A 200-mile exclusive economic zone extends to seaward from the shores of Oman. Fisheries are a valuable adjunct to the oil-based economy. Great efforts have been made since 1970 by the Government to develop the in dustry and to exploit its potential. Restrictions have been imposed in recent years on the fishing of certain species, such as lobsters, abalone and kingfish, of which there has been a noticeable decline in stocks, and intensive study is being undertaken to establish the causes of this decline.

In the 1970s, there was a drift away from the fishing communities by young men to the cities, where they could earn better wages and there was a labour shortage arising from the development programme. Urgent steps were taken by the Government to stem this drift and the situation has now stabilised with more than 22,000 Omanis directly employed in the fisheries industry. It was the introduction of the Fishermen's Encouragement Fund in 1978 which was most effective in en couraging the fishermen to keep to their traditional occupation. Partic ularly popular was the financial assistance given for the purchase of fibre-glass fishing boats and outboard engines, which were made read ily available. Much progress has been made in recent years in the im provement of facilities for fishermen by improvements to fishing har bours, the construction of cold-storage facilities and processing facilities and transportation throughout the Sultanate. Road construc tion has permitted the conveyance of fresh fish to the centres of population in the Interior in refrigerated vans.

Governemt Fisheries Sector

A Fisheries Department formed in 1972 became a Directorate General in 1974, and this was later absorbed into the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. In 1980, the Oman National Fisheries Company (ONFC) was formed with Government assistance to purchase, distribute and export the catches of local fishermen. It also handled fish caught by concessionaires. In 1987 the Oman Fisheries Company (OFC) was established, into which the ONFC was merged. RO30 mil lion was received as subscriptions from shareholders.

Fish in the Omani Water

More than 150 species of fish and crustaceans have been identified in Omani waters, ranging from sardines to tuna. Some 35 types of grouper, or hamour as they are known in Oman, are found in the waters of the SuItanate. Schools of sardines netted off the Batinah Coast, have long been used as animal feed and fertiliser. In Dhofar in the south, sardines, are still purchased by the Jabali tribesmen as feed for their cattle during the dry season when the grazing has been exhaust ed, although this is a diminishing practice as fodder becomes increasingly available from farms on the Salalah Plain. Large numbers of lob sters are now caught off Masirah Islands and the coast of Dhofar during the open season, and exported to the north, where they are in great demand.

The total quantity of fish and crustaceans landed rose sharply through the 1980s, reaching a peak in 1988, after which there was a de cline. Research carried out by the Marine and Science Fisheries Centre has indicated that over-fishing has had a major part to play in this de cline. As a result, fishing for lobsters and abalone is now restricted to two months in the year (December and January). The Marine Science and Fisheries Centre has recommended that nets should have a mesh size of at least 5Q inches, to allow young fish to escape and breed. However, research has also shown that over-fishing is not the sole rea son for the decline in fish stocks. It is strongly suspected that pollu tion, which now widely affects the oceans, has a part in this, particular ly through damage to the mangrove ecosystem, which provides a breeding ground for many types of fish and crustaceans. The prelimi nary findings of the surveys carried out for determining the marine re sources and the assessment of the fisheries stock in the Sultanate were published in 1993. The survey has provided very important data on these resources, and their conservation along the Omani coasts, which will assist in formulating policies and evolving plans for their efficient management.

Private Fisheries Sector

Large-scale commercial fishing enterprises have also played their part in the development of the fishing industry. An original agreement between the Government and a Japanese fishing company was replaced in 1977 by a concession to a Korean company which trains Omanis on its trawlers and provides 38% of its catch to the Gov ernment in the form of royalties The industrial fleet now consists of the National Fishing Company and the Korean Fishing Company.

Fish are being exported to the USA, Japan, Australia, France and other European countries. Exports to France have trebled in recent years, and exports to the UK and Holland are being encouraged. All the de veloped ports are to have enhanced processing and cold-storage facili ties, work on which is about to be completed. In the Governorate of Musandam, where the region is almost total ly dependent on fishing, special Government assistance has been pro vided to the local fishing communities. Much of the catch in this re gion is exported to the UAE and other AGCC States.

Fisheries Research

The Marine Science and Fisheries Centre was set up in 1986 near Sidab, on the coast near Muscat, with the consultative support of UNESCO and FAO. In cooperation with the Sultan Qaboos University its role includes studies of different stocks of resources and the future development and management of the vast range of marine species to be found in Omani waters, in addition to a more academic role in the general ecology of the marine environment, with particular emphasis on the conservation of ecosystems and endangered species, including turtles.

The Centre also has a public aquarium and a modern library. The Centre and its aquarium have proved to be an excellent facility for both students and the general public. The Centre has begun studies on breeding molluscs, including mussels, oysters, scallops and abalone, through sea aquaculture. It is intended to develop sea-based aquacul ture on a iarge scale. In the course of time, aquaculture at sea will be extended to kingfish and hamour, and it is visualised that fishermen will then be enabled to adopt this method.

RO 200 million has been allocated to the fishing industry under the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1991-1995), of which RO 84.1 million has been set aside for investment in industrial and traditional fishing vessels, shore facilities and transport. RO 75 million is for resources assess ment and extension services, while RO 25 million is to be spent on the construction of eight major harbours and sixteen smaller ones. Fish processing firms will get RO 13.9 million. Large-scale port develop ment is planned for Sur and Quriyat, enabling them to accommodate industrial vessels and ease pressure on the principal port of Mina Qaboos.

The Ministry's workshops along the coast provide technical services, such as free maintenance of fishing gear and the supervision of maintenance of boat engines by fishermen. During the Fourth Five Year Plan the Fishermen's Incentive fund approved 2,583 applications for boats, depth-finding equipment, fish detection equipment, commu nications equipment, winches, propellers, long fishing lines and stor age boxes. 6,700 lobster traps were distributed free of charge. Mean while, the Oman Bank of Agriculture and Fisheries has granted several millions of rials in the form of soft loans to small-scale fisheries and fishing companies. These loans covered a number of requirements such as trans·ort, purchase of boats, boat engines and fishing gear. There is also a fund for financing fisheries research.

© Adapted from Oman'95, Ministry of Information. Nizwa.NET is not responsible for accuracy or errors.