September 2003


Fish landings occur at 43 coastal villages, with the largest proportion (49% in 2001) landed at Sitra Pier and Manama Pier.

The table indicates the relative importance of landings sites in terms of their contribution to total catch. They are classified as primary (1), secondary (2) or tertiary (3). In Bahrain, inshore shallow water barrier traps (haddrah) are also used to catch fish, accounting for 17.5% of total landings in 1998. Catch from haddrah are collected by hand during low tide.

Landing Site

Annual Landings



Dair (2° )



Draz (2° )



Hidd (2° )



Jaw (2° )



Malkeeyah (2° )



Manama Pier (1° )

2 430


Mina Sulman (2° )



Muharraq Pier (2° )



Samahij (2° )



Sitra Pier (1° )

3 073


Zallaq (2° )



Other Villages (3° )
Al-Hoora, Al-Jufair, Um Al-Hassam, Bilad Al-Qadim, Nabih Saleh, Al-Kharjeeh, Muhazza, N. Sitra Causway, Halat Um Al-Baid, Asker, Al-Door, Al-Qarieh, Sanabis (Rasruman, Sanabis (Burhama), Sanabis (Daih), Sanabis (Sanabis), Sanabis (mix), Sanabis (Naim), Karbabad, Karana, Jidd Al-Hajj, Barbar, Jannosan, Budaiya North, Budaiya South, Muharraq Old Pier, Between two bridges, Al-Busaitin, Qalali, Samlta & Naimi, Damastan, Al-Jasrah, Karzakan

1 564


Barrier Traps (haddrah)

1 566



11 230



To date, no plans have been formally approved for fisheries or marine resources management for Bahrain. However, in 1994, an internal paper was produced by DFMR (then called Directorate of Fisheries) entitled "A marine resource management plan for Bahrain: addressing user-identified priorities with the project management approach."

The overall objective stated in this 1994 plan was to minimize social conflict. Critical issues included: lack of compliance with existing regulations; pollution and degradation of the marine environment; and competition between different groups for the limited marine resources of Bahrain.

Strategies were presented to address each of these critical issues. To increase compliance with regulations, strategies included: public education; surveillance; enforcement and punishment; and licensing. To decrease degradation of the marine environment, strategic approaches included: public education; habitat preservation and enhancement; and reduction in pollution. To reduce conflict and competition for marine resources, strategic approaches included: separation of fleets using artificial reefs; designation of special-use areas; and stock enhancement.

In addition to the three primary critical issues, other activities were also specified. DFMR has extremely limited resources, so it should only be involved in basic research if information is greatly needed, results directly support fisheries management, and research is not being addressed by other agencies (such as universities). DFMR focuses on applied research with direct consequences for management, such as stock assessment studies, environmental monitoring and socio-economic surveys.

Since Bahrain's fisheries are mature, it is inappropriate to continue subsidies. However, to reduce social conflict, the government is continuing a modest loan scheme for fishermen. Also, there are no resources available to develop ports, only to maintain them. Despite this, efforts continue to upgrade primitive vessel landing sites.


Shrimp fishery

Stocks exploited: The important shrimp fishery of Bahrain has declined in recent years from 3 565 t in 1996 to 2 530 t in 1998 to 1 359 t in 2001. The share of the landings has also declined significantly from 25.7% of total landings in 1998 to 12.1% in 2001. Over 90% of the shrimp catch is Penaeus semisulcatus. Six other species are caught, but are of minor importance. Shrimp are caught primarily by trawl nets, with a small proportion also caught in inshore barrier traps (haddrah). Portunid crabs (which, in the past, were regarded as a by-catch species of shrimp fishing operations), have increased in importance, with catches rising from 1 017 t in 1998 to 2 556 t in 2001, representing 22.8% of total landings. Industrial shrimp trawling has been banned in Bahrain since 1998 and shrimp catches are taken entirely from the artisanal sector.

Regional arrangements: There is a regional Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) effort to harmonize shrimp closed seasons to 6 months annually. This has met with limited success. Over the last few years, Bahrain has increased its closed season from 3 to 5 months. There is also an ongoing regional shrimp stock assessment program in which Bahrain participates.

Management objectives: There are no stated national objectives or goals regarding management of Bahrain's shrimp fisheries. Fisheries models indicate that this fishery can support 73 full-time boats although, in 2001, the number of licenses actually issued for shrimp fishing was around 6 times this figure.

Management measures: There are regulations in place that specify size of shrimp net and net mesh. A ministerial decree opens and closes the shrimp season annually which, in 2002 was a five-month closed season from March to July. All commercial shrimp vessels need to be licensed annually. Although these fisheries regulations are in-place, compliance has been limited. Illegal fishing methods are commonly being used. Also, there is a growing and uncontrolled recreational fishing sector that is in direct competition with commercial fishermen.

Output controls: There are no output controls in any of Bahrain’s fisheries.

Economic incentives: There are no specific economic incentives to participate in this fishery.

Performance and success of management: Prior to 1998, there were about 100 illegal (i.e. unlicensed) shrimp boats operating during the closed season. With the creation of the Fisheries Enforcement Committee in 1998, the number of illegal boats has decreased to only a few boats. However, over-capacity and limited compliance with regulations is still apparent in the fishery with shrimp catches having declined significantly in recent years.

Finfish fishery

Stocks exploited: Finfish account for 65.1% of total landings in 2001, caught using various fishing methods, including gillnet, large wire traps (gargoor), small wire traps, and hook-and-line. Many boats use a combination of fishing gear. In 1998, there were 213 gillnet boats, 119 large wire trap boats, 419 small wire trap boats, and 462 boats that used both large and small wire traps. In addition, there were about 800 boats using hook-and-line, but only 22 of these were commercial boats. Also, there is a growing and uncontrolled recreational fishing sector that is in direct competition with commercial fishermen.

Finfish landings are composed primarily of spinefeet (rabbitfishes; Siganus spp.), perches (Lethrinus spp.), trevallies (Carangidae), seabream (Sparidae) and silver-biddies (Gerres spp.).

Regional arrangements: There are no regional management schemes for finfish that impact on management in Bahrain. However, there is a regional Spanish mackerel stock assessment program that is ongoing.

Management objectives: At this time, there are no specific management objectives for the finfish fishery in Bahrain.

Management measures: The main management system for this fishery is the 1981 Amiri Decree on fisheries. This decree specifies types of fishing allowed. It also specifies certain marine activities that are illegal (such as use of driftnets, explosives and poisons). Various ministerial decrees have been made to supplement the 1981 Amiri Decree.

Output controls and economic incentives: There are no specific output controls or economic incentives to participate in this fishery.

Performance and success of management: There continue to be problems between different finfish fishery sectors. Illegal driftnets are deployed on fish trap areas. This results in lost fish traps. Fishermen also complain that their fish traps are stolen, or that catches are stolen. Also, illegal unlicensed foreign fishermen continue to operate in Bahraini waters.

Total fish group landings have been rather stable over the last 10 years. However, landings for certain preferred species have declined. For example, total landings of grouper have declined about 70% percent in the last 10 years.

Barrier trap fishery

Stocks exploited: Barrier traps (locally known as haddrah) are a traditional method of fishing in Bahrain. These barrier traps are located in the shallow inshore areas. In 1981, there were 971 barrier traps in Bahrain, and 377 traps in 1998.

Barrier traps catch a variety of marine life including finfish and shrimp with the outgoing tide. These traps accounted for 17.5% of total landings in Bahrain in 1998.

Regional arrangements: There are no regional arrangements on barrier traps.

Management objectives and measures: There are no stated management objectives on barrier traps. The 1981 Amiri Decree specifies that barrier traps should be licensed.

Output controls and economic incentives: There are no specific output controls or economic incentives for the barrier trap fishery.

Performance and success of management: In 1998, only 73 of 377 barrier traps were licensed (19.4%).

Fish trawl fishery

In the 1980s and 1990s there were as many as ten steel-hulled fish trawlers operating in Bahraini waters. These vessels were supposed to stay in water greater than 20 m deep. However, they often trawled in shallow waters. This caused many conflicts with fish trap fishermen.

As of 1 June 1998, by a ministerial decree, these vessels were banned from operating in Bahraini waters.


In 2001, aquaculture production reached 12.2 t or about 0.1% of total supply. Production from grow-out trials has been test-marketed locally. Results from rabbitfish (Siganus spp.) and sobaity (local sea bream) market studies indicate that the cultured product is acceptable to the public.

Landings of certain preferred fish species, such as grouper, have declined dramatically over the last 10 years. This has stimulated interest in aquaculture in Bahrain. In 1993, the National Mariculture Center (NaMaC) was established.

At this time, there are no regulations relating to aquaculture in Bahrain, nor are there any regional efforts to develop or support aquaculture in the Gulf.

A hatchery, operated by the National Mariculture center (NaMaC), has had some success in producing fry of local orange-spotted grouper (Epinephelus coioides), rabbitfish (Siganus canaliculatus), yellow-finned seabream (Acanthopagrus latus), and sobaity bream (Sparidentex hasta). In 1998, a joint private/public sector project was initiated to support local grow-out trials. Fry feed is imported from Japan. Grow-out feed is imported from Saudi Arabia. In 2002, hatchery production was 560 000 fry of which 150 000 were released into the sea. NaMaC has also been successful in supplying fish fry throughout the region (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE).


In the 1980s and early 1990s, the government operated a national fishing company. In 1994 this operation was sold to the private sector. Currently the national government has no direct investment in fisheries. In addition, there are no funds to develop fishing docks or ports. Limited funds are available annually to maintain existing vessel facilities.

In the past, the government has provided various forms of subsidies to fishermen. These have included subsidies or assistance with equipment (engines), supplies (ropes and nets), financing loans, and repair (of engines and boats). The government continues a modest fishermen loan scheme.


Fish and shrimp export permits

There are export controls on fish, crabs, shrimp, lobster, cuttlefish and oysters. DFMR checks the local market to ensure that there are adequate fish supplies. If there is a surplus, it issues export permits for that surplus. These permits are on a per shipment basis. In 1998, a total of 2 149 export permits were issued.


Enforcement of fisheries regulations is by the Coast Guard and Police. In 1997, the Cabinet created a special Fisheries Enforcement Committee.

Commercial fishermen management input

In 1998, commercial fishermen organized a Fishermen's Committee. This committee represents some, but not all commercial fishermen, and has had various meeting with DFMR officials.

Commercial fishermen also have direct access to the Director of DFMR and all above him (including the Minister). They have even occasionally sought and have been granted audience with the Amir.

Data collection

The primary source of fisheries data is the Fisheries Statistics database. This is a stratified random sample survey that was established in the late 1970s to collect landing and market data. DFMR staff routinely visit landing sites and the major fish markets to collect data, and input it into a specialized computer program, forming the database that is the basis for the annual fisheries statistics report.

A separate database - Bahrain Shrimp Fishery Database - was established in 1997 for the shrimp fisheries, recording data from vessel trip log sheets that are filled in by commercial shrimp fishermen.

In addition to these two databases, information is also collected on a project or study basis. If there are specific issues that arise, a one-off study can be designed and executed to address these issues. One-off or periodic studies have been completed on such topics as recreational fishing, consumer preference for fish, and coral reefs.



Total landings have increased marginally over the last 20 years to 2001 and have stabilized at around 10 000-11 000 t in recent years. However, landings for more valuable species (such as grouper and shrimp) have declined. In the case of grouper, total annual landings have dropped about 70% in the last decade, and increased landings of secondary species such as portunid crabs have supported total fish landings.

In an effort to ensure supplies of fish to the local market, the government controls fish available in the market. Exports are only permitted if there are surplus fish in the local market, resulting in a distortion of the local market.

With increasing imports (up from 1 916 t in 1991 to 3 573 t in 2001), increasing exports (from 2 301 t in 1991 to 5 967 t in 2001) and stable, or slightly increasing, local production, total supplies to the market have remained steady over recent years.


The total population of Bahrain is increasing at about 3.5% annually. However, with supplies remaining steady, per capita seafood consumption has decreased from a high of 27.2 kg/person/year in 1984 to 13.5 kg/person/year in 2001. This is about a 3.5% decline per year. Per capita seafood consumption should decrease further as fast foods replace traditional diets. This will be offset by population increases. It is projected that total seafood demand should remain stable over the short and medium terms.


The basis of marine resource and fisheries law in Bahrain is the 1981 Amiri Decree on fisheries. There has been no major revisions to it, but various draft proposals on revising this decree have been put forward over the years.

In addition to the 1981 Amiri Decrees, various ministerial decrees have been issued as necessary. Annually, ministerial decrees are issued that close and open the shrimp-fishing season. Other ministerial decrees have been issued to clarify or specify issues presented in the 1981 Amiri Decree.

There are no regulations regarding management of shared stocks. DFMR licenses commercial fishing boats (including foreign boats).


The Directorate of Fisheries and Marine Resources (DFMR) is the main agency responsible for fisheries and marine resource management in Bahrain.

DFMR is represented on various national committees DFMR related to marine resource issues, including: the National Wildlife Committee; the Fisheries Enforcement Committee; the Ad Hoc Group on Biodiversity; and the National Team for Development of Living Marine Resources.

Other agencies that are active in marine resource issues include the Environmental Affairs Directorate; Bahrain Center for Studies and Research (BCSR); and the Biology Department, University of Bahrain.

The structure of the DFMR is as follows:

Ministry of Works and Agriculture


Directorate of Fisheries and Marine Resources (DFMR)

Adviser (1)
Administrative Staff (13)
Professional Technical Staff (32)


Numerator (3)
Statistical Technician (1)

Biological & Environmental Studies

Senior Marine Biologist (1)
Marine Biologist (2)
Supervisor Numerator (1)
Fisheries Technician (1)
Technician (1)

Extension & Marine Control

Head (1)
Jetty Maintenance Specialist (1)
Fisheries Licensing Specialist (1)
Sr. Marine Extension Technician (1)
Marine Inspector (3)

National Mariculture Centre (NaMaC)


Sr. Fisheries Technician (1)
Fish. Technician (1)
Labourer (1)

Live Food

Marine Biologist (1)
Sr. Fisheries Technician (1)
Marine Technician (1)


Marine Biologist (1)
Technician (1)
Technician Labour (1)


Sr. Marine Biologist (1)
Technician (2)