INFORMATION ON FISHERIES MANAGEMENT IN THE SULTANATE OF OMAN

April 2001

LOCATION OF MARINE LANDING SITES

Oman is situated on the southwest end of the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. The fisheries in Oman extend along the 1 700 km of coastline and some islands, and are considered the most important non-oil source of income for Oman. Total landings in 1998 were 106 168 t, with a value of approximately RO 54 million ($US 140 million based on an exchange rate of $US 1 = RO 386). The traditional fishery (defined as vessels under 10 GRT) lands at many locations, but there are 30 centralized landing stations in the six regions: Musandam, Batinah, Muscat, Sharquia, Wusta and Dhofar.

The table indicates the relative importance of landing sites in terms of their contribution to total catch.

Landing Site

Annual Landing(1)(1998)

Tonnes

% of total

Traditional-sector landings

Musandam (Khasab; Bukha; Dibba)

4 521

4.26

Batinah (Shinas; Liwa; Sohar; Saham; Khabura; Suwaiq; Mussanah; Barka)

20 034

18.87

Muscat (Seeb; Busher; Muttrah; Muscat; Quriyat)

16 636

15.67

Sharquia (Galan bani bu Hassan; Galan bani bu Ali; Sur; Masirah)

20 658

19.46

Wusta (Mahut; Duqum; Al-Jazir)

12 263

11.55

Dhofar (Salalah; Rakhut; Dhalkut; Marbat; Taqa; Sadah; Shalim; Al Halaniyat)

14 448

13.61

Subtotal

88 560

 

Industrial landings

Subtotal

17 608

16.59

Grand Total

106 168

100

Note: (1) With the present statistical system, no data is available regarding quantity landed at each landing site, but such data may be available from 2001.

SECTOR OVERVIEW

The overall objectives for the sector are:

  • Development and modernization of fisheries sector;

  • Development of fisheries exports;

  • Enhancement of economic diversification of the country through fisheries development;

  • Development of fisheries-related industry;

  • Development of aquaculture projects;

  • Enhancement of the future production and value of Oman's coastal fisheries and the well being of the people and coastal communities.

Specific fisheries management objectives include:

  • Reserve marine resources within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for the benefit of the country;

  • Ensure effective enforcement of the existing fishing law and regulations;

  • Protect and maintain living aquatic resources;

  • Protect the fragile coral reef and other inshore environments;

  • Use traditional knowledge and interests of artisanal fishermen and communities in fisheries management;

  • Promote fisheries scientific research;

  • Ensure integrated planning and a collaborative approach in terms of policies for the sector, fisheries and coastal zone management;

  • Cooperate with neighbouring countries in management of shared and migratory stocks.

MAIN MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR MAJOR FISHERIES

Demersal fisheries

Demersal species are caught by both traditional and industrial sectors. The total catch of demersal species for 1989 was estimated to be 32 713 t, with 69% (22 590 t) from traditional fishery and 31% (10 123 t) from industrial fishery.

Traditional fishermen use handlines, gill nets, and traps to catch demersals, while the industrial fishery uses trawl nets for catching the same.

Management measures are directed towards the industrial sector and currently include:

  • The mesh size for the main net including the wing should not be less than 210 mm, and cod end mesh size should not be less than 110 mm. Nets must be single layered;

  • Fishing operations should be conducted in areas between longitude 56 00 E and latitude 20 00 N, or in a depth exceeding 50 m;

  • Industrial fishing vessels should avoid fishing near fishing areas reserved for artisanal fishermen;

  • No vessel is allowed to continue fishing operation in one section for more than five consecutive days;

  • Fishing operation not allowed to be performed simultaneously in the same section by more than one vessel. Distance between adjacent vessels during fishing operation should be at least 5 nautical miles;

  • No fish discard is allowed;

  • The maximum duration of a fishing trip is 35 days;

  • One or more surveillance officer is deployed onboard each fishing vessel for monitoring and surveillance purposes.

Large pelagic fisheries

In Oman there are both traditional and industrial fisheries for large pelagics. The estimated total catch of this fish group for 1998 was 32 828 t, with the traditional fishery contributing 86% (28 356 t).

To catch large pelagics, fixed gill nets are used as well as lines. The traditional fishery uses handlines, while longlines are used by the industrial fishery.

Regulations controlling the harvesting of large pelagic include:

  • The maximum duration of a fishing trip is 60 days (industrial fishing vessels);

  • Large pelagic fishing vessels should perform fishing operations in areas between longitude 54 00 E and latitude 42 45 N, at a distance not less than 20 nautical miles from the coast line;

  • No vessel is allowed to continue fishing operation in one section for more than five consecutive days;

  • Fishing operations are not permitted simultaneously in the same section by more than one vessel. The distance between any two vessels during fishing operations should not be less than 5 nautical miles;

  • Discard of any catch is strictly prohibited;

  • One or more surveillance officers is deployed on board each fishing vessel for monitoring and surveillance purposes.

Small pelagic fisheries

Beach seines, cast nets and gill nets are used by the traditional fishery to catch small pelagic fish. Industrial trawl fishery catches a negligible amount of small pelagics incidentally, but they do not target these fish.

The estimated total catch of small pelagic fish for 1998 was 40 728 t. Currently there are no specific regulations controlling the harvesting of small pelagics.

Shellfish and mollusc fisheries

Lobster fishery

The estimated total catch of lobster for 1998 was 338 t. Traditional fishermen catch lobsters using traps. The main lobster regions are Dhofar (Southern Region), Sharqiyah and Musandam. Because of a decline in catch over several years, and as a management measure, there is a lobster closed season during the breeding and reproduction period, i.e from 1 February to 30 November each year. Management measures include:

  • It is only permitted to use traps for harvesting of lobster. Nets, spears or any other fishing gear are banned;

  • It is prohibited to take egg-bearing females or young lobsters with a carapace length of less than 80 mm;

  • It is prohibited to possess, process or deal in lobsters during the breeding and reproduction season.

Shrimp fishery

Traditional fishermen catch shrimp by using cast nets. The total shrimp catch in 1998 was estimated at 65 t. Currently there are no specific regulations controlling the harvesting of shrimps.

Abalone fishery

The total abalone catch for 1998 was 40 t. Abalone is caught off Dhofar by free-divers, and air dried for export. Management of this high-value fishery include a seasonal closure from 15 December to 14 October.

Cuttlefish fishery

Both the traditional and industrial trawl fisheries catch cuttlefish. The total cuttlefish catch in 1998 was 4 080 t (1 799 t from industrial trawl fishery and 2 282 t from traditional fishery).

Traditional fishermen use spears and bottom lines, but some cuttlefish are also caught incidentally in beach seines and by traps.

Shark and ray fishery

Almost all the catch is from traditional fishery using bottom lines and fixed gill nets. Rays are often caught incidentally by beach seines. Most of the impetus for shark fishing is to supply a foreign market for dried shark fins and tails, and therefore some shark bodies are wasted in this activity. Shark and ray total catch in 1998 was estimated at 4 805 t and 189 t, respectively.

Fisheries regulations prohibit the throwing of any shark part or shark waste in the sea or on shore. It also prohibit the handling, marketing or exporting of any shark part unless a licence is obtained from the competent authority.

Other fisheries

These include a small traditional fishery for sea cucumber on Mahut Island in the South Sharquiyah region. Sea cucumber are caught by hand and the entire catch is dried and exported.

GOVERNMENT STRATEGY

The main goals of the government strategy for fisheries include :

  • The best utilization of aquatic resources that can be achieved through maintenance and development of fishery, management of coastal areas, fisheries research and extension to realize the concept of rationale fishing;

  • Diversification of national income by raising the fisheries contribution in national income, realization of increasing development rates, development of fisheries exports and fisheries industries, technology transfer and completion of infrastructure;

  • Enhancement of the well-being of fishermen and encouragement of their settlement through provision of necessary infrastructure and services, construction of model fishing villages, improved work environment in the private sector, supporting the economic role of women in rural areas and encouraging cooperative work in Omani villages;

  • Raise the contribution of fisheries in food security and food quality. This can be achieved through raising the average per caput consumption of fish, improving fish distribution throughout the country and realizing remunerative income from fish exports in order to import other items not produced locally;

  • Enhancement of the private sector's role in fisheries development and expanding its activities, through encouragement of private sector involvement in completion of infrastructure, provision of technical and financial support to companies in the private sector in order to qualify them for export, etc.

  • Complete the construction of infrastructure.

With regard to taxes, no tax is imposed on fisheries sector but there are certain nominal fees to be paid by the artisanal fishermen against the issuance and renewal of fishing licenses, and the industrial sector is required to pay 12% of the value of the actual catch within the permitted quota.

INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS

Enforcement

Enforcement of fisheries legislation is carried out by the Directorate General of Fisheries Resources, with the assistance of the Coast Guard of the Royal Oman Police and Royal Navy.

The Directorate General of Fisheries Resources, as the primary fisheries development and management agency, works closely with a number of government and parastatal agencies with regard to development of the fisheries sector in Oman. These agencies include the Ministry of Housing and Transport, the Ministry of Electricity and Waters, the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Environment, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Sultan Qaboos University.

Fisheries management constraints include weakness in key fisheries information gathering, processing and utilization,and a serious weakness in enforcing fisheries law.

MAIN FISHERIES REGULATIONS

Activities of the fisheries sector are organized and governed by the Marine Fishing and Living Aquatic Resources Law, issued by the Royal Decree No. 53/81, dated 30.5.1981, and the Executive Regulations of the Law, issued in accordance with the Ministerial Decisions No. 3/82 and 4/94. The law has six sections, covering definition, handling; marketing and processing; violation and penalties and general provisions. The Executive Regulations deal with Marine Fishing Licences, Licence Fees, Protection and Development of Living Aquatic Resources, Regulation of Fishing, Preservation, Transport and Marketing of Living Aquatic Resources, General Provisions and Penalties.

Other relevant legislation include Quality Control Regulations of Omani Exported Fish, issued in accordance with Ministerial Decision No. 136/98. Also Ministerial Decision No. 121/98, concerns conditions and specifications of Industrial Fishing Vessels Equipped For Preservation and Handling of Fish Products, in addition to other Ministerial Decisions issued from time to time.

INVESTMENTS IN FISHERIES

The Government of Oman, fully realizing that an effective fisheries development programme requires both a long-term commitment and substantial financing, has supported the construction of fisheries infrastructure required for the development of the industry.

During the past years, the government invested substantially in fisheries infrastructure and as a result ten fishing ports have already been constructed in different coastal regions. Also, in order to encourage the private sector to invest in provision of services and the necessary facilities for artisanal fisheries, some land plots within the constructed fishing ports have been allocated to and utilized by the private sector for the same purpose. Government and private sector investment has been directed towards the establishment of fishing harbours, marine workshops, cold stores, fish marketing centres, shelters, fisheries complexes, research centres, ice plants, fish processing and packaging plants, and marketing centres.

Also, the Fisheries Encouragement Fund, established in 1976 to upgrade the economic, social and technical standards of the traditional fishermen, and to realize optimal utilization of fisheries, has had a significant impact on modernization of the traditional inshore fleet, where several thousand fishing vessels needed upgrading.

At the same time, considering the importance of research in fisheries development, the government established the Fisheries Research Fund (FRF) in 1991, to provide finance for fisheries research projects. To date, about RO 3.0 million has been provided by FRF to finance 18 approved research projects.

PROJECTED DEMAND AND SUPPLY

Oman is considered 100% self-sufficient in fish and fish products, with a surplus of not less than 20% at its minimum level. The annual per caput consumption of fish in 1998 was almost 39 kg, which is very high compared to the world average. About one-third of fish production is exported, mainly to Gulf countries, Europe and Asia.

Fisheries product export for 1998 was estimated at 34 847 t, worth RO 24 869.

Within regard to imports, some companies, hotel and restaurants import fisheries products of certain species, either because they are not available in enough quantities (during closed seasons) or they are not available in Omani waters and yet preferred by consumers. Imports in 1998 were 113 t, valued at RO 2.0 million.

Projections of fish production, consumption, export and import to 2020 (tonnes)

Year

Production

Imports

Consumption

Exports

2005
2010
2015
2020

154 191
199 467
249 817
306 357

21 200
23 700
26 200
28 700

115 389
138 297
165 234
196 862

60 002
848 700
110 783
138 195

LINKS

Addresses of the national fisheries administrative and research institutions.

The Directorate General of Fisheries Resources
P.O. Box 467,
P.C. 113, Muscat
Sultanate of Oman
Tel.: 696300
Fax : 605634

Marine Sciences and Fisheries Centre
P.O. Box 467,
P.C. 113, Muscat
Sultanate of Oman
Tel: 740062
Fax: 740159

College of Agriculture
Sultan Qaboos University

P.O. Box 34,
P.C. 123, Al-Khod
Sultanate of Oman
Tel.: 515201
Fax : 513418
Telex : 5602 SQU ON
Cable Jami'ah
E-mail raeesi gg @ squ.ed.om

ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE NATIONAL FISHERIES AUTHORITY

Organigram of the Fisheries Authorities