was a time when lobsters abounding in the Omani waters, especially in
Dhofar and Masirah, were left untouched by fishermen, in all probability
due to lack of awareness of the marine species commercial value. Lobster
fishery, however, expanded rapidly in the last two decades from a strictly
incidental fishery around Masirah Island in the early 70s with a estimated
landing of of less than 10 tonnes to the current profitable comercial
fishery occuring from south Sharqiya to the border of Yemen with the
annual catch averaging 2,000 tonnes a year.
establishment of the airforce base in Masirah indirectly contributed
to discovering the high worth delicacy, which according to regulations
laid down by the goverment are fished during the two-month season of,
December-January. The dhofar coast is profilic for the twin treat of
abalone and lobster, which, thanks to the conservation efforts being
seriously pursued by the government, provide emmense financial gains
for fishermen. Unlike abalone, the majority of which finds its way into
the export market, a sizeable portion of the lobster catch is consumed
within the Sultanate due to its effordability in comparison to abalone.
With Christmas, New year and other celebrations heightening the demand
for exotic food, the Omani lobsters find no dearth for ready buyers.
to the research study by the Marine Science and Disheries Center, lobster
fishery in Oman is mainly aimed at one species -- panulirus homarus
(spiny lobster) although another variety, panulirus versicolour, also
accures. The scalloped spiny lobster species is distributed along the
south Arabian Sea coast from Dhalkut in the Dhofar region to Ras-al-Hadd
and along the Masirah Osland. A few specimens may occur in the Gulf
of Oman, but they are not common.
spiny lobster is a shallow water species although it may occur down
to 90 meters depth and has perticular preference for coral and rocky
reefs that are washed by sandy surfs. Gregarious, the species tends
to shelter in and around rocks and crivices. A nocturnal species, lobster
is a scavenger and omnivorous although it has preference for mussels,
while juveniles feed mostly on barnacles. During the lobster season,
Dhofari fishermen venture out in their fibreglass boats to areas well-known
for its presence. Currently, lobster exploitation is restricted to harvests
by traditional fishermen, who are required by the law to fish only by
traps or pots.
plastic traps are easy to use and couse no injury to the lobsters. This
is very important as female lobsters with spawn which inter the traps
are required by the law to be released back into the water to conserve
the stock. The traps have openings on two sides which facilitate the
easy entry of lobsters into them. On an average, five to eight traps
will be let for each fisherman, using dead sardines as bait.
smell of dead sardines is syrong temtation for lobster which are easily
drawn into the traps, fishermen in the wilayat of Sadah said. the advantage
with the traps is that small and female female lobsters with spawn can
be protected as they are released from the traps without an injury,
they added. The plastic traos will also last for many years as they
are water friendly, they pointed out. Local traders operate in various
parts of Dhofar to make instant purchases of lobstres from fishermen.
Each morning, fishermen brings in loads of lobsters and walk away with
thick wallets. The average lobster daily catch could vary from 25 to
40 kg fetching RO 75 to 120 for each fishermen. A good season would
provide no less than RO 3000 to RO 4000 to each of them. This year,
the Dhofari fishermen have received RO 3 a kg on average for the supply
Suhail Said Fadhil, a fisherman from Mughsayl, said that the lobster
harvest this year was better than the last year. Bukhait Mohammed Ahmed
al Mohri, a lobster trader who owns a fisheries company in Salalah,
pointed out that his annual purchases averaged about two tonnes. The
delicacy was mainly exported to Dubai, he added.
traders are operating in Sadah dealing with lobster purchases. When
fishermen bring in their catch, hanggling intensifies between the traders
to make the purchases. Most of the fishermen, however, have regular
supplies to whom they hand over the catch. The lobster catch in Dhofar
has averaged above 500 tonnes annually between 1990 and 1995. In 1995
alone the catch was estimated at 481 tonnes, according to Mohammed Ahmed
Awadh al Shanfari, Director of Fisheries in Salalah.
fishery gaining ground
lobster species in Al Jazer area of Wosta region had become almost extinct
due to over fishing and the use of gill nets, Al Shanfari said. The
rules are very strict on lobster fishing methods to be employed, but
people flout them as the enforcement poses difficulties, he added. Al
Shanfari pleaded for stricter measures to deter fishermen from destructive
fishing methods and added that random cheaks should be stepped up to
nab the violaters of the law.
scalloped spiny lobster carries eggs externally and its clutch size,
depending on the size of the lobster, ranges between 100,000 and 900,000
eggs. Incubation period for the eggs is relatively short, about three
to five weeks. The larval period, however, is long and lasts 11 months.
The species attains 14 centimeters carapace length and 35 cm total length.
Adapted from Oman Observer. Nizwa.NET is not responsible for errors.