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The designations employed and the presentation of material in the map(s) are for illustration only and do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal or constitutional status of any country, territory or sea area, or concerning the delimitation of frontiers or boundaries.

Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2013)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Inland sub-sector
    • Aquaculture sub-sector - NASO
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
    • Foreign aid
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
    • Regional and international legal framework
  7. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefPrepared: April 2015

The Sultanate of Oman has a long coastline, the vast majority of which faces the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. The main economic activity of many coastal communities is fishing, which provides an important supply of fish to local communities, urban areas and for the export markets. Oman is one of the largest fish producers in the region and a net exporter of fish and fish products.

Total capture production was quite stable between 2005 and 2011 at around 155 000 tonnes per year but has increased significantly since 2012, reaching 206 200 tonnes in 2013. This growth was due to both small pelagic and tuna species. There are also important catches of bream, shrimp, lobsters and cephalopods. Industrial fishing is practised by trawlers taking about 20 000 tonnes. Some of these trawlers are operated under charter arrangement. The remainder was taken by artisanal fisheries, mainly with nets and handlines. Several important fish stocks have come under increasing pressure, particularly the high-valued species of rock lobster, abalone and some demersal species, and are generally considered fully-exploited. A total of 21 475 fishing vessels were reported in 2013, of which 3 692 vessels were not powered with engines and over 99 percent of powered vessels were less than 12 m in length. The fishery sector provided about 45 220 direct employment in 2013.

Aquaculture is still in its infancy, producing about 350–460 tonnes of seabream annually in 2003 and 2004 which has been gradually replaced by the production of Indian white prawn. Production in 2013 consisted of 350 tonnes of Indian white prawn from coastal ponds and just 3 tonnes of Nile tilapia from freshwater. However, Oman’s environmental profile provides the potential for aquaculture development. There is a strong commitment from the government to developing this sector in a competitive and sustainable manner that is in line with the social, economic, cultural and historic values of the country. The first commercial aquaculture operation in Oman was a fish cage operation located in the Muscat Governorate which started production in 2003. The Musandam Peninsula in the northern tip of the country is characterized by deep fjord-like inlets which are suitable for marine cage culture, though the presence of occasional algal blooms are an issue.

The main regulation of the aquaculture sector is the by-law for aquaculture and quality control of aquaculture products issued in 2004 by the then Ministry of Fisheries. This by-law has been recently updated and further improved and it is in the final stage of approval.

In 2013, exports and re-exports of fish and fishery products were valued at USD 146 million, while imports at USD 51 million. The average annual per capita consumption of fish was about 26.9 kg in 2011. Oman is an approved exporting country to the European Union.

Oman has been, and continues to be, active in addressing its fisheries management problems and is also active in furthering regional cooperation in management. It is important to maintain the present management strategy, which also allows the present employment levels to be maintained. Regulations pertaining to the abalone fishery need to be enforced. The status of many of the stocks is uncertain, principally as a result of the lack of detailed recent stock assessments and of reliable statistics after the mid-1990s. A major fishery resource survey was completed in 2010 and the large amount of data collected is being analyzed.

Offshore, but within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), there is a zone of upwelling that provides nutrients for oceanic stocks, such as tuna, and midwater (or mesopelagic) fish stocks. Some of the stocks are shared with neighbouring countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Yemen. A common strategy for the long-term sustainability of the stock needs to be developed.

The Royal Oman Navy patrols the area and monitors fishing activity and any illegal activity or unauthorized entry of vessels into the Exclusive Economic Zone of the country. There is some recreational fishing and some diving by persons interested in viewing the coral reefs.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth has recently placed the development of aquaculture as an important national priority and in 2011 launched the Investment Guidelines for Aquaculture development in the Sultanate of Oman.

Since August 1989, Oman is Party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and ratified in May 2008 the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. Since July 2008, it is a Party to the 1993 FAO Compliance Agreement.
 
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - Oman - General geographic and economic indicators

Area 309 500 km2
Shelf area 58 000 km2
Length of continental coastline 1 700 km
Exclusive Economic Zone 535 912 km2
Population (2013) 3.632 million
GDP at purchaser’s value (2013)1,*

OMR 30.1 billion

USD 78.1 billion

GDP per head (2013)1,** USD 21 498
Agriculture, gross value added (2013)1,*

OMR 371 million

USD 964 million

Fishing, gross value added (2013)1,*

OMR 162 million

USD 422 million

*Exchange rate: 1 USD = 0.385 OMR
**Per capita calculated by FAO and converted as per UN currency exchange rate

(1) Source: Oman Statistical Year Book 2014

Key statistics

Source
Country area309 500km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area309 500km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Inland water area-km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.3.156millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2017
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area556 486km2VLIZ

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsThe tables and graphs in this section are based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2013.

Table 2 – Oman – Fisheries statistics

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2011 2012 2013
PRODUCTION (thousand tonnes) 106.0 119.8 120.4 164.1 158.7 191.7 206.5
    Inland 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
    Marine 106.0 119.8 120.4 164.1 158.7 191.7 206.5
  Aquaculture 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.4
    Inland 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
    Marine 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.4
  Capture 106.0 119.8 120.4 163.9 158.6 191.6 206.2
    Inland 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
    Marine 106.0 119.8 120.4 163.9 158.6 191.6 206.2
                   
TRADE (USD million)              
  Import 1.3 2.0 5.6 35.3 45.0 54.9 50.6
  Export 5.8 45.0 51.4 127.6 158.6 160.8 146.0
                   
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 6.0 18.5 29.4 37.8 41.6 43.2 45.2
  Aquaculture              
  Capture 6.0 18.5 29.4 37.8 41.6 43.2 45.2
    Inland              
    Marine 6.0 18.5 29.4 37.8 41.6 43.2 45.2
                   
FLEET(thousands boats) ... ... 13.3 18.8 18.8 20.0 21.5
                   
APPARENT FOOD CONSUMPTION              
  Fish food supply (thousand tonnes in live weight equivalent) 22.1 40.9 58.5 77.8 81.5    
  Per Capita Supply (kilograms) 19.1 22.6 26.7 27.8 26.9    
  Fish Proteins (grams per capita per day) 3.8 4.9 6.2 7.3 6.9    
  Fish/Animal Proteins (%) 18.8 19.3 20.4 17.7 17.0    
  Fish/Total Proteins (%) 7.9 8.9 8.8 9.3 8.2    
                   

Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics

1) Excluding aquatic plants

2) Due to roundings total may not sum up



Figure 1 — Oman — Total fishery production
Figure 1 — Oman — Total fishery production


Figure 5 — Oman — Composition of capture production - 2013
Figure 5 — Oman — Composition of capture production - 2013


Figure 2 — Oman — Production of aquatic plants
Figure 2 — Oman — Production of aquatic plants


Figure 3 — Oman — Capture production
Figure 3 — Oman — Capture production


Figure 4 — Oman — Major species groups in capture production
Figure 4 — Oman — Major species groups in capture production


Figure 6 — Oman — Aquaculture production
Figure 6 — Oman — Aquaculture production


Figure 7 — Oman —Major species groups in aquaculture production
Figure 7 — Oman —Major species groups in aquaculture production


Figure 8 — Oman — Import and export value of fish and fishery products
Figure 8 — Oman — Import and export value of fish and fishery products


Figure 9 — Oman – Major species groups in import
Figure 9 — Oman – Major species groups in import


Figure 10 — Oman – Major species groups in export
Figure 10 — Oman – Major species groups in export


Figure 11 — Oman — Per capita supply of fish and fishery products
Figure 11 — Oman — Per capita supply of fish and fishery products


Figure 12 — Oman — Composition of total fish food supply - 2011
Figure 12 — Oman — Composition of total fish food supply - 2011


Updated 2013Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sectorThe Sultanate of Oman, which occupies an area of 309 500 km2, lies in the extreme southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula. It shares borders with the Republic of Yemen to the southwest, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the west and the United Arab Emirates to the north and can lay claim to a number of small islands in the Gulf of Oman, the Strait of Hormuz, and in the Arabian Sea.

Oman’s coastline stretches from the Arabian Sea and the entrance to the Indian Ocean at its south-western extremity, to the Sea of Oman and Musandam in the north, where it overlooks the Strait of Hormuz and the entrance to the Arabian Gulf.

Fisheries and agriculture are among the oldest and most important production sectors in the Omani economy. They play a vital part in feeding the population, providing employment for large numbers of Omanis and helping to boost the country’s GDP. Fishing is considered one of the country’s oldest occupations. Capture production comes mainly from marine waters, providing nearly 99.9 percent of total fish landing. The quality of the catches has improved, following the creation of the Fisheries Quality Control Centre.

Inland production from aquaculture of 0.1 to 0.2 thousand tonnes were registered between 2009 and 2011. Fish farming in Oman is now a growing industry and is technically supported by the Fish Farming Centre.

Marketing operations have been streamlined across the country and exports are now better regulated in terms of handling procedures and food safety, particularly with regard to a number of high valued fish. Fisheries training centres have been established in al Khabourah and Salalah, data and statistics on the fishing industry have been upgraded and new fishing harbours have been built and equipped with modern facilities. Today there are fishing harbours along the entire Omani coast. Marine sub-sectorCatch profileCapture fisheries in marine waters has a long tradition and is considered to be an important resource for food and jobs in Oman. Since 2005, the total annual capture production has been rather stable at around 155 000 tonnes. It increased by about 3.4 percent in 2010 and then dropped to 158 700 tonnes in 2011. The reported total production in 2012 of 191 728 tonnes marked an increase of 33 000 tonnes compared to the value reported the preceding year (Agricultural and fisheries statistical year book for the Sultanate of Oman, 2012).

Since 2010, small pelagic fish made up the bulk of the landings. In 2012, these species represented 36.8 percent of landings, with the majority made up of sardines (61.6%), followed by Indian mackerel and small jacks with 12 and 10 percent, respectively. Large pelagic species come in second and represented 28.7 percent of the catch in 2012. The most important species fished were the longtail tuna (26%), large jacks (20%), kingfish and yellowfin tunas (10%).

Demersal catch occupied the third position in 2012 (around 30%) and consisted mainly of ribbonfish (22%), emperor (18%), crocker (around 14%) and catfish (10%). Sharks and rays came in fourth followed by crustaceans represented by lobsters, shrimp and mollusks (abalone and cuttlefish). Undefined species represented less than 1 percent in 2010 down from 2 percent in 2010.
Landing sitesIn 2012, the most important landing sites were along the Arabian Sea (110 140 tonnes) followed by the Oman Sea with a production of 62 420 tonnes followed by the Arabian Gulf (the Gulf of Oman) where a production of 16 383 tonnes was registered.

Artisanal fisheries remain the most important sub-sector of the fishing industry and represented 89 and 95 percent of the sector in 2010 and 2012, respectively. The importance of the industrial fishery came in second with 10 percent in 2010. This value further dropped in 2012.

Within the artisanal fishery sector the South Sharqiyah District has been, since 2010, the most important district with landings representing approximately 28.5 and 26.5 percent in 2010 and 2012, respectively. The next district in terms of importance is the Wusta District with artisanal landings representing 20 and 25 percent of the total catch in 2010 and 2012, respectively. The Dhofar District ranks third with artisanal productions around 17 and 16 percent in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
Fishing practices/systemsThe Omani fishing fleet consists of undecked and decked boats. The undecked boats represented the main vessels and made up 99 percent of the total fishing fleet in 2011. Most undecked boats were motorized (81%). The undecked non-motorized boats measured mainly between 6–12 m (52%) followed by boats that were >6 m (46%). The undecked motorized boats were mainly boats measuring between 6–12 m (70%) (Table 3).

The decked vessels consist of 99 boats all motorized of which 37 measured between 18–24 m and 20 between 12–18 m in 2011. The number of these vessels decreased since 2005 from 117 to 42 in 2010 and then increased to 99 in 2011 (Table 3).

Table 3 - Oman - The fishing fleet structure of Oman (no. of vessels)
Table 3 - Oman - The fishing fleet structure of Oman (no. of vessels)


Main resourcesOmani vessels mainly fish in the Al-Batinah (north) and Al-Batinah (south). In 2012, these two regions accounted for around 25 percent of the active fishing boats, followed by Al-Wusta (20%) and Dhofar (19.95%).

Arabian Gulf (Gulf of Oman)

The Arabian Gulf has a tropical climate. The sea depth is generally very shallow with hard and soft bottom substrates. The maximum water depth is of 90 m and the average depth of 50 m. Extensive tidal shallows (from 0 to 50 m), which are characteristic of most of the coast, are ideal for trap fishing. On the east coast fishermen living in fishing villages at the mouths of the “wadis” (rivers) benefit from rich stocks nourished by the deepwater upwelling. Here, beach seine netting (called “yaroof”) and the casting of drift nets (“al-hayali”) or the use of gillnets (“al-liekh”) often set on the bottom, are also deployed (usually from dhows, i.e. wooden local fishing boats). Long-lines (known locally as “manshalla”) are also used. In recent years there has been substantial investment in the fishing fleet with an increase in boat numbers, boat sizes and better equipment. Since 2010, the fish landings have been increasing.

The stocks distribution varies from demersal, benthic and pelagic resources. The fishing activity of this Gulf is artisanal and it is practised all year round using hand lines and pole-lines (manually operated), trolling lines, barriers, fences, weirs, corrals, etc., artisanal skiff net or dhow (traditional vessel made from wood or fiberglass of 12–18 m), which can be equipped with inboard engine (gillnets and entangling nets), beach seines, and dhow fish trap fishery (barriers, fences, weirs, corrals, etc.). In 2012, a total production of 17 787 tonnes were fished by 1 636 boats manned by 2 706 fishermen.

The species targets are tuna (Thunnus tonggol, Auxis thazard, Thunnus albacares), grouper (Epinephelus tauvina, Epinephelus chlorostigma, Epinephelus areolatus ), silver grunt (Pomadasys argenteus), spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus), soldierbream (Argyrops filamentosus), blackspot snapper (Lutjanus ehrenbergii), narrow-barred Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson), great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda), longfin trevally (Carangoides armatus), Indian threadfish (Alectis indicus), Indian mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta), greater amberjack (Seriola dumerilii), anchovies (Engraulidae), herrings, sardines (Clupeidae).

Oman Sea

The Oman Sea is 200 miles (320 km) wide and situated between Cape Al-Ḥadd in Oman and Gwādar Bay on the Pakistan/Islamic Republic of Iran border. It is 350 miles (560 km) long and connects with the Persian Gulf to the northwest through the Strait of Hormuz. In 2012, the total Omani fish catch from this sea was estimated at 42 305 tonnes (22% of the total catch national production), employing some 16 462 fishermen (about 39% of the total fishermen in Oman) operating 7 058 boats (35% of the total Omani boats).

The fishing practised is mainly artisanal and is active year round. Important fisheries exist for demersal, benthic and pelagic species. The most common fishing gear used here include skiff traps, skiff hand/pole lines and trolling lines, skiff nets (gillnets and entangling nets), beach seines). The traditional dhow fishing boats are widely used. The species targeted include: Emperors (Lethrinidae), groupers (Epinephelus tauvina, Epinephelus chlorostigma, Epinephelus areolatus), tigerperches (Terapontidae), goatfishes (Mullidae) porgies, seabreams (Sparidae), sharptooth jobfish (Pristipomoides typus), tuna (Thunnus tonggol, Thunnus albacares, Auxis thazard), sharks (Sphyrnidae), barracudas (Sphyraenidae), kawakawa (Euthynnus affinis), sharptooth jobfish (Pristipomoides typus), narrow-barred Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson), Marlins, sailfishes, (Istiophoridae), seabasses (Serranidae), porgies, Carangids (Carangidae), requiem sharks (Carcharhinidae), sharks (Sphyrnidae), Indo-Pacific sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus), striped bonito (Sarda orientalis), talang queenfish (Scomberoides commersonnianus), anchovies (Engraulidae), herrings, sardines (Clupeidae), Indian mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta), redtail scad (Decapterus kurroides), dolphinfishes (Coryphaenidae), blacktip trevally (Caranx heberi), striped bonito (Sarda orientalis), sand devils (Squatinidae), and black pomfret (Parastromateus niger).

Arabian Sea of Oman

There is approximately 1 200 km of Omani coast along the Arabian Sea, extending from Ra’s Al-Hadd in the north to the Oman/Yemen border in the south. In 2012, the Arabian Sea was responsible for 68 percent of the total fish catch in Oman and employed around 23 385 fishermen (55% of the total fishermen in Oman) operating 11 249 boats (56% of the national fishing fleet). The major fishing gear used are artisanal gillnets, trawls, long-lines and purse seines. The skiff cuttlefish and squid fishery has been using barriers, fences, weirs, corrals, etc. This fishery operates seasonally from September to October and the target species are the pharaoh cuttlefish, Sepiidae loliginidae (inshore squid) and Octopodidae (octopuses).

The skiff fish trap fishery also uses barriers, fences, weirs, corrals, etc. This fishery is artisanal and practised year-round. The targeted species include parrotfishes (Scaridae), emperors (Lethrinidae), grouper (Epinephelus chlorostigma, Epinephelus areolatus), seabreams (Sparidae), snappers (Lutjanidae), and sea catfishes (Ariidae).

The skiff hand line and trolling line fishery is artisanal and practised all year. The resources exploited are pelagic and demersal stocks. The vessel used is a fiberglass boat called skiff, fitted with outboard engine, and measuring between 4–12 m total length. The fishing gear is basically hand lines, hand operated pole-lines and trolling lines. The target species are croakers, drums (Sciaenidae), giant trevally (Caranx ignobilis), spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus), bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), greasy grouper (Epinephelus tauvina), tuna (Thunnus tonggol, Thunnus albacares), porgies, and seabreams (Sparidae).

The skiff lobster fishery is still artisanal and operates seasonally from March to April using barriers, fences, weirs, corrals, etc. as fishing gear. Spiny lobsters (Palinuridae), painted spiny lobster (Panulirus versicolor) and scalloped spiny lobster (Panulirus homarus) constitute the target species of this fishery.

The skiff net fishery is an artisanal fishery practised all year using gillnets and entangling nets; the resources exploited are pelagic stocks and the target species are sardines (Clupeidae), sea catfishes (Ariidae), herrings, Indian mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta), chub mackerel (Scomber japonicus), largehead hairtail (Trichiurus lepturus), mullets (Mugilidae), talang queenfish (Scomberoides commersonnianus), hammerhead sharks (Sphyrnidae), and requiem sharks (Carcharhinidae).

The skiff shrimp fishery practised in the Arabian Sea is artisanal and operates from September to December. The species fished are the green tiger prawn (Penaeus semisulcatus) and the Indian white prawn (Penaeus indicus).

The beach seine fishery is artisanal and practised all year. Herrings, sardines, redtail scad (Decapterus kurroides) and the Indian oil sardine (Sardinella longiceps) are the species targeted.

The dhow net fishery is an artisanal activity practised all year using gillnets and entangling nets. The species aimed for are tuna (Thunnus tonggol, Thunnus albacares), talang queenfish (Scomberoides commersonnianus), mackerel (Scomber japonicus, Scomberomorus commerson), bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), kawakawa (Euthynnus affinis), black marlin (Makaira indica), sailfishes (Istiophoridae), barracudas (Sphyraenidae), giant trevally (Caranx ignobilis) and a variety of carangids (Carangidae).

The dhow fish trap fishery is practised all year using barriers, fences, weirs, corrals, etc. as fishing gear. The demersal stocks are the exploited resources and the target species are mainly groupers, seabasses (Serranidae), porgies, seabreams (Sparidae), snappers, jobfishes (Lutjanidae) and emperors (Haemulidae, Lethrinidae).

The dhow hand-lines and trolling lines fishery is practised year-round and the stocks exploited are groupers (Epinephelus tauvina, Epinephelus areolatus, Epinephelus chlorostigma), greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili), emperors (Lethrinidae), porgies, seabreams (Sparidae), longtail tuna (Thunnus tonggol), sea catfishes (Ariidae), requiem sharks (Carcharhinidae), trevally (Caranx heberi, Carangoides armatus), croakers, and drums (Sciaenidae).

The main targeted species by the Oman industrial long-line fishery is the yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) fished all year round by steel vessel longliners equipped with handling and processing equipment allowing sorting, packing, quick freezing and fish storing onboard. The vessels are manned by a team of 20 persons that stay on board for trips lasting up to 35 days. The port of Mutrah is the final destination of this kind of fishing. In 2011, ten such vessels were operational with over 200 fishermen employed. In 2011 they jointly landed around 1 392 tonnes of fish (Table 5).

Tables 4, 5 and 6 describe the evolution of the industrial fishery mainly based on longliners operating from 2010 to 2012 and show that there was an increase of 36 percent from 2010 to 2011 that can be explained by the number of vessel days that was higher in 2011. There is also a notable increase of the catch per vessel/day possibly due to the adoption of fishing technologies.

Table 4 – Oman - Industrial fishery: Longliners activity from 2010 to 2012

 

Catch/vessel-day

(mt)

Season duration (months) Catch/vessel-year (mt) Vessel-days number Number of vessels

Landing

(mt)

2010 0.97 12 68 918 13 889
2011 1.23 12 140 1139 10 1400
2012 1.44 12 162 896 8 1292
Source: Agricultural and Fisheries Statistical Year Book 2012.

Table 5 – Oman - Longliners large pelagic landings (mt) from 2010 to 2012

Large pelagic species 2010 2011 2012
Yellowfin tuna 622 73 78
Other tuna 0 0 1 027
Sailfish 202 202 170
Other 35 1 117 15
TOTAL 859 1 392 1 290
Source: Agricultural and Fisheries Statistical Year Book 2012.

Table 6 – Oman - Longliners landing value (OMR 1000) from 2010 to 2012

Large pelagic species 2010 2011 2012
Yellowfin tuna 800 93 113
Other tuna 0 0 1492
Other 29 986 13
TOTAL 829 1079 1618
Source: Agricultural and Fisheries Statistical Year Book 2012.
Management applied to main fisheriesThe Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAFW) is the responsible management authority in the Sultanate of Oman. In order to ensure responsible fishing it employs precautionary management and conservation measures. Fishing effort is mainly controlled and managed by:
  • controlling and reducing the number of registered and licensed vessels;
  • ensuring that the issuance and renewal of fishing licences is done separately in each Governorate (Table 7);
  • preventing vessels from fishing away from their traditional fishing grounds. Furthermore, vessels are not allowed to change gear type. Regulations exist for the use of nets. They prohibit nets walling in the artisanal fishing sector before sunrise and after midday, near mangroves areas, coral reefs and bays. Nets walling which do not conform to established norms will be seized. The prohibition of the use of bottom trawling fishing method for benthic fishing and a delay of two years will be given to persons and companies in possession of a permit for benthic fishing.
  • establishing measures related to the type of fishing activity with specific licences for vessels type and size (Table 7);
  • issuance of revised regulations under the Marine Fishing and Protection of Living Aquatic Resources Act. For example, a fishing closure period has been set for the spiny lobster (Panulirus homarus) from the first day of May until the end of February of the following year. Temporary fishery closures have also been embraced as in the case of the Omani abalone fishery (Haliotis mariae) when harvesting was totally banned from 2008 to 2010. It also prohibits the possession and processing of the gastropod during the ban period including any product movements (transportation), trade and other related activities. The presence of extraction tools are not allowed on the fishing vessels during the ban period.
  • closely collaborating with neighbouring countries and supporting the mandate of the Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI) so to promote development, conservation and foster a rational management and utilization of living marine resources and encourage a sustainable development of the aquaculture sector;
  • banning the discard of any catch;
  • deployment of surveillance officers on board of vessel;
  • producing accurate statistical data;
  • setting targeted bans on shark fishing. Sharks must be landed, transported, sold or disposed of whole. It is strictly forbidden to throw away any body part or shark waste in the sea or along the shores. It is prohibited to land shark fins separated from the body, unless otherwise authorized by the competent authority; and
  • monitoring fishing activities by inspecting all industrial and artisanal fishing operations as well as fish processing plants. The export of seafood is strictly and regularly inspected.


Table 7 – Oman -Number of fishing licences issued and renewed from 2010 to 2012

 201020112012
Boats licences (renewed + new issued) 8 1663 2994 118
Fishermen licences (renewed + new issued) 8 69210 11710 056
Source: Agricultural & Fisheries Statistical Year book (2012)
Fishing communitiesThe Omani fishermen live mostly in small villages. Most members of the family are involved in some aspect of fisheries or in transporting, processing and selling fish. There are advisory fishing committees in each region called “sonat al-bahr” headed by the wali (in Arabic “custodian”; someone who has authority or guardianship) of the region and include some older experienced fishermen and members of the Shura Council (formal consultative advisory body) of the region. The task of the committee is to study the decisions of the Ministry that regulate the fisheries related to local fishermen and also help in solving conflicting issues among fishermen.

Since 1995, the employment in the marine sector progressively increased up to 2011 with only a minor drop in 2009. The 41 569 fishermen registered in 2011, accounting for over 96 percent of the fishing work force, were employed in the marine coastal fishing sector.
Inland sub-sectorThere are no inland fisheries of commercial significance in Oman. Aquaculture sub-sectorThe total aquaculture production in the Sultanate of Oman in 2010 was estimated at around 127 tonnes; it increased to 200 tonnes in 2011 and 2012 (Tables 8). Shrimp and a few fish species are farmed. To date production figures remain relatively low (Table 8).

The Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) is the only species farmed in freshwater. This species represented only 0.60 percent of the total aquaculture production in 2011 (Figure 7). In terms of brackishwater aquaculture, the Indian white prawn (Penaeus indicus) is the most important farmed species contributing almost 99 percent of the total aquaculture production. In 2011 the shrimp farming sector was valued at slightly over USD 1 million or 99.7% of the total aquaculture production value. The Green tiger prawn (Penaeus semisulcatus) and mullets spp. (Mugilidae) have never showed any significant production. In the case of marine aquaculture, yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) was reared for fattening and European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax), porgies spp. (Sparidae), gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) and yellowfin seabream (Acanthopagrus latus) were studied for breeding and production. As indicated in the FAO National Aquaculture Sector Overview (NASO) for the Sultanate of Oman (www.fao.org/fishery/naso/search/en), the gilthead seabream (S. aurata), the European seabass (D. labrax), the yellowfin seabream (A. latus), the spinycheek grouper (Epinephelus coioides), the thinlip grey mullet (Liza ramada), the yellowfin tuna (T. albacares) (fattening only) and the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) are the only species that have been cultured commercially at some point. In 2007, there was only one commercial marine fish cage culture operation along with one project for rearing of shrimp in earthen pond. An increasing number of relatively small-scale tilapia farms for local consumption are scattered throughout the country.

The total land area used in aquaculture is currently estimated at 165 900 m2 of which 160 000 m2 (16 ha) is used for shrimp culture and the rest 5 900 m2 sea surface area is used for fish cage culture. This surface area is likely to expand considerably once a number of relatively new commercial facilities come into operation (mostly shrimp farms).

Table 8 – Oman - The aquaculture production of Oman (tonnes)
Table 8 – Oman - The aquaculture production of Oman (tonnes)


Table 9 – Oman - The value of aquaculture production (‘000 USD)
Table 9 – Oman - The value of aquaculture production (‘000 USD)


Research studies have been carried out on seed production and rearing of halfspotted hind grouper, Cephalopholis hemistiktos, goldlined seabream, Rhabdisargus sarba, the sandfish sea cucumber Holothuria scabra, and the Omani abalone, Haliotis mariae (Ibrahim et al., 2005, 2010; Ibrahim et al., 2012; Ibrahim, 2011; Al-Rashdi, 2012; Fermin et al., 2010). In order to further develop freshwater aquaculture, the common carp, Cyprinus carpio, and the freshwater river prawn, Macrobrachium rosenbergii, have recently been introduced. In the late 1990s studies on the distribution, reproductive biology and culture of three oyster species (Saccostrea cucullata, Crassostrea rhizophorae and Crassostrea spp.) were conducted. To date none of these bivalve species are commercially farmed. In the same period extensive studies, including farms site identification, on hatchery and pond culture techniques, and formulation of local feeds were conducted and supported by the authorities for the white shrimp Penaeus indicus and P. semiculcatus (MAF, 1999).

At present, the aquaculture research activities are focussed on the goldlined seabream, Rhabdosargus sarba, particularly on the reproductive biology, early larval development, natural and induced spawning of captive broodstock and juvenile rearing (Ibrahim et al., 2011). Since the goldlined duskyfin grouper and the halfspotted hind are among the most commercially important food fish in Oman and in high demand in Europe and Southeast Asia, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth has been supporting an important breeding programme for these two marine species.

Among the marine species considered as potential aquaculture candidates is also the sand fish Holothuria scabra. Research trials in the reproduction of the species are rather advanced, but true commercial operations have yet to initiate. As sea cucumbers are contributing to the livelihoods of many coastal dwellers, research studies are ongoing mainly focused on reproduction technologies for seed production (to be eventually used in re-stocking programmes and commercial farming). In the meantime, in order to safeguard the natural stocks of this commercially important echinoderm species a management strategy along with a series of conservation measures has been established to reduce fishing pressure (e.g. a minimum capture size of 20 cm has been set along with a seasonal closure of the fishery from February to August).

In October 2012 a large public aquaponics project was launched using tilapia as the farmed fish species. The project eventually aims at producing the more valuable Asian seabass (Lates calcarifer). The aquaponics facility is located in the Barka region within the Governorate of Muscat. The site is part of a much larger food production initiative which includes the production of livestock and poultry farmed under extensive conditions. The system is developing successfully in a region that has very poor water resources and soils unsuitable for conventional agriculture.

In June 2013, a multi-million aquaculture project known as the “Sultanate Oman Qurun Aquapolis” was launched. The Lim Shrimp Organization (a social enterprise developer that helps developing countries build up sustainable livelihood programmes such as fish farming) in partnership with Bank Sohar and Arabian Marine Development, LLC, will jointly develop a 700 hectare, multi-species integrated aquaculture farm in Ras Jibsh, located approximately 300 km south of Muscat along the Arabian Sea. The species to be cultured include tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon), Indian white shrimp (P. indicus), sand fish sea cucumber (H. scabra), Salicornia (an edible, salt tolerant plant also known as pickleweed), oysters and other bivalve species. When fully operational, the farm aims at producing annually about 4 500 tonnes of shrimp. The project is scheduled for completion in 2016. A total of 700 employees will be recruited for the project. The project will have its own feed mill, processing plant, cold storage facilities, hatcheries, desalination plant, standby power plant, sewage treatment plant, incinerator and other social amenities like shops, clinics, churches, mosques, a sport complex and a social hall.

The Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries is looking to increase aquaculture production to 220 000 tonnes with a value of OMR 340 million by 2030. In order to encourage the development of the industry the authorities have:
  • identified and allocated suitable coastal sites for aquaculture projects. An atlas has been printed and available to potentially interested investors;
  • aquaculture farming by-laws (regulatory framework) are in place and investments opportunities and incentives have been widely promoted;
  • established a governing body to foresee aquaculture investments, protection of the environment and human health, sustainable development of the industry, licensing, investment guidelines and incentives, and the use of fertilizers and chemical products.
In support of the development of the aquaculture industry the Government also:
  • Offers attractive packages for investors to promote aquaculture investment by allowing free movement of capital and exemption from corporate income tax for five years (extendable by another five years).
  • Leases lands for approved aquaculture projects with a minimal fee.
  • Established a “one-stop-shop” to provide the services required by investors (including the release of permits needed) and to avoid lengthy administrative processes involving various government agencies.
  • Identified suitable sites for aquaculture development taking into account key ecological and climatic conditions.
  • Encourages the development of sustainable cage aquaculture by setting limits for maximum permissible impact in any given area exploited by the industry and by assisting in establishing monitoring programmes.
  • Supports local capacity building and technology adaptation through extensive research and development programmes which recently included the introduction of sex reversal technology for farmed tilapia.
To support the long-term sustainability of the aquaculture sector, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth plans to:
  • Prepare and release a series of best aquaculture practices codes to ensure the sustainability of the sector, the responsible utilization of natural resources, and safe interaction with other sectors.
  • Establish an aquatic health strategy to prevent the introduction of animal pathogens and disease outbreaks. The disease prevention plan will help provide assurances to potential investors.
  • Establish rules and regulation for aquaculture that are transparent, enforceable in harmony with other national and international regulations and standards.
The Sultanate of Oman has also been seeking technical assistance abroad through bilateral programmes (e.g. Brazil) and through close cooperation with regional and international organizations (e.g. FAO).

Currently there are no aquaculture associations/cooperatives in Oman.
Recreational sub-sectorThere are no significant recreational fisheries in Oman and no data are available. However, game fishing is increasingly becoming popular among young Omani such as the blue marlin and tuna species targeted. The coasts off Sur and Masirah are especially suited for sport fishing. In the south of Oman there are a few adventure travel companies that offer a variety of world-class fishing packages. The targeted game species include the giant trevally, a variety of billfish and tuna species, razor gang and dolphin fish.

Local and foreign travel agencies also advertise beach fishing for species like the queen fish, blue fish, bream and snapper.
Post-harvest sectorFish utilizationFish is an important source of animal protein for the majority of the households in Oman. Freshly landed fish is generally sold directly to consumers or to processing companies. Numerous factors affect consumer choice for fish particularly the product price and freshness as well as the ability in recognizing the fish species and attributing it its local name. Income is also another factor. In Oman, fresh and frozen fish are the most commonly traded product form in both the domestic and export markets. Fresh, chilled or frozen fish represent approximately 70 and 60 percent, respectively, of the fish exported and imported (FAO statistics, 2011).

The expansion of the domestic fish market in terms of product development has been constrained by consumer habits that show very strong preferences for fresh fish over other processed forms. Based on a study by Houston et al. (1998) the choice of species and product form are influenced by educational levels and whether households are rural or urban. Income group, importance of price, and price expectations significantly influenced the demand for fish, as did attitudinal choice characteristics, such as place of purchase, fish product characteristics, and spousal purchasing decision. Rural households and household size affected the odds of Omani consumption of fresh fish negatively.

Crustaceans and mollusks, live, fresh, and chilled come in second position. In 2011 they accounted for 18 percent of the seafood products exported, followed by dried, salted and smoked fish that made up 7 percent of the traded volume (Table 10). The production of processed and preserved fish products in the country is still very minor.

The production of commercial fish oil and fishmeal is negligible and does not exceed one percent of the captured fish. In fact the demand for food fish for the local and export markets keeps prices higher than what local fishmeal manufacturers can afford to pay.

Oman and Yemen are considered the only countries in the Arabian Peninsula where fish will continue to play a relatively major role in both food supply and in the national economy. The consumption of fish (i.e. fish proteins intake in terms of grams/capita/day) has doubled since 1980.
Fish marketsA variety of market outlets operate in Oman. These include open beach markets where small-scale fishermen using traditional boats offload and directly sell their fish catch to local buyers. Larger markets outlets also exist and range from relatively simple landing centres purposely built by the local authorities to modern fish markets located in all major fishing ports. These latter facilities are well equipped (e.g. with ice plants) and provide a range of useful services. Omani fishermen also sell their fish directly to truckers who collect fresh fish from different landing sites either in small trucks (with or without automatic cooling depending on the capacity of the trucks) and deliver it to retailers and processors. In some of the larger markets the fishermen pay a nominal fee to auctioneers that sell their fish.

Larger refrigerated trucks are also in use particularly for the transportation of fresh chilled fish to neighbouring countries. Land transportation of fish over land plays a major role in fish exports to neighbouring countries, although the quality of the fish may not be optimal due to poor handling and weak control of the cool chain distribution. Independent truckers also act as intermediaries between fishermen and different buyers including processors, retailers and consumers in the local and export markets. It is estimated that approximately 70 percent of the total fish exported from Oman is traded as fresh fish by these truckers while the balance is exported by local processing plants as fresh, frozen and processed products (MFW, 2009).

The Omani Government has placed considerable importance on post-harvest handling of fish to reduce losses and wastage. As a result numerous fish landing sites have been established along the entire coastline. At present 16 fishing ports have large and well equipped fish markets (e.g. ice plants) that provide the required services to both fishermen and traders (MFW, 2010). In addition, as part of other food commodities markets, a total of 30 fish retail markets have been established in all major cities where small retailers sell fish to domestic consumers (DFD, 2009).

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth has channelled considerable effort into developing the fisheries sector including harvesting and post-harvesting in close cooperation among public agencies and commercial operators. This development was duly reflected in the previous 5-Year National Development Plan (2006–2010). More efforts and targeted developmental actions aimed at further supporting the modernization of the fishery sector have also been included in the current 5-Year National Development Plan (2011–2015).

In support of the fishery sector, the Government of Oman has recently invested a total of OMR 500 million on a variety of projects to improve fish production and exports. Considerable attention has been directed towards the efficiency and functioning of fish stores as well as increasing the efficiency of the artisanal fishing sector. The authorities have plans to further develop the fish marketing sector by launching a project that aims at setting up a series of retail outlets that would offer attractive fish products of high quality and at reasonable prices.

Furthermore, local companies and individual entrepreneurs have been encouraged by the Ministry to invest in fish marketing facilities (particularly in the premises of the fishing ports) by providing a series of investment incentives. Among the new projects started, there are 42 outlets being run by young Omanis who received support from the Government. These projects include frozen and fresh fish refrigerators, fish cutters and cooperative ice production units.

A subsidized system as part of the Ministry's programme for fish marketing has been used when there is scarcity of fish in the local fish markets (especially during the summer months and Ramadan), in order to ensure regular availability of fish all year round.
Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorThe Omani economy witnessed a significant increase in gross domestic production (GDP) growth in 2010, mostly driven by recovery in crude oil prices in the international markets. The GDP, at current prices, increased by 23.4 percent during 2010 in contrast to a decline of 22.6 percent in the previous year (Annual Report 2010 of the Bank of Oman, 2011). While nominal GDP emanating from the hydrocarbon sector registered a robust growth of 41.2 percent, the same from non-hydrocarbon activities witnessed a growth of 11.1 percent in 2010. Although the fishery, agriculture and forestry sectors make a low contribution to the national GDP at about 1.9 percent, they play an important role in direct and indirect contributions to food security. The products and services from these sectors affect the daily livelihood of many Omanis. There are over 42 000 persons that are directly engaged in the fishery sector (MAFW, 2012).

The fishery sector is expected to increase its socioeconomic significance in the near future and, therefore, the Government has raised its financial allocations for new projects in the agricultural and fisheries sectors from OMR 150 million to OMR 171.8 million during the Eighth 5-Year National Development Plan. This amounts to 14.5 percent of the total financial allocation approved when the current 5-Year Plan was adopted in 2011.Role of fisheries in the national economyAccording to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth, fish is considered, after crude oil, the second most important export commodity in terms of foreign exchange earnings. The fishery sector has contributed significantly to the economic growth of the country through generation of foreign exchange income and employment generation. Agriculture and fishing have always been a very important part of the life style of many Omani. Both food production sectors have increasingly played an important role in the diversification of the national economy, which could have been entirely dependent on the crude oil industry.

Historically, fisheries have always played an important role in food security in Oman with fish as an important element in the local diet. The fishery industry has a significant impact on the national employment figure. It is estimated that over 280 000 individuals are being supported by the sector (considering that an Omani family unit is made up on average of seven people). The growth of fishery and agriculture related activities have certainly contributed over the last few years to slow down the migration of rural inhabitants (both farmers and fishermen) to the larger cities. Furthermore, as the fisheries and aquaculture sectors are closely linked to other sectors along the supply chain, including insurance and finance, etc., it is likely that further investments will create new business opportunities which will contribute to the growth and well-being of the nation.
TradeIn Oman, fresh fish is traded locally as well as exported. The most important foreign market for fresh fish is the European Union (EU) where Italy, France and Spain are the top importers. The bulk of frozen fish products, which account for 70 percent of the total fish production, is exported to the People’s Republic of China and other nations in the Far East. The export products include a large proportion of small fish (a large mix of species) that have no other market than China. The remaining 20 percent of frozen fish goes to Europe (mainly the EU), the United States of America and a handful of African nations. The export destination of Omani fish products very much depends on the species traded and their seasonal availability. African countries usually import smaller fish, generally sold at a lower price.

High value species such as lobster, jumbo shrimp, and other species like amberjack and a variety of grouper species are mainly exported to the United States of America. One major trade drawback with the United States of America seafood market is the difficulty faced by the Omani exporters in ensuring a regular supply of fish. Many of the fish species traded from Oman are based on seasonal catches. Breaded fish is exported mainly to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, primarily to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Libya.

Fish exports are considered to be an important source of foreign exchange for the economy. The fisheries exports for 2011 were estimated at 76 076 tonnes worth USD 158.6 million. During the period 2006–2011, total fish and fishery products exports increased by about 67 percent and were valued at about USD 159 million in 2011 (Table 10 and 11). The major export destinations are the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) countries and the European Union markets.

Table 10 – Oman -Total exports of fish and fishery products in Oman (tonnes)
Table 10 – Oman -Total exports of fish and fishery products in Oman (tonnes)


Table 11 – Oman - Total exports value of fish and fishery products in Oman (USD 1 000)
Table 11 – Oman - Total exports value of fish and fishery products in Oman (USD 1 000)


Oman imports fish and fish products for local use. Some companies, hotel and restaurants import certain fisheries products either because they are not available locally in sufficient quantities (particularly during the closed fishing seasons) or simply because they are not available in Omani waters and yet are in high demand. Imports in 2011 were estimated at 19 332 tonnes and valued at USD 45 million. The import of all fishery products almost doubled from 2006 to 2011 (41%). Imports of fish either fresh, chilled or frozen in 2011 showed a significant increase compared to what was imported in 2006 (Table 12 and 13). The fishmeal also showed an important increase during last years and increased by ten folds in 2011 compared to the quantity imported in 2010.

Table 12 – Oman -Total imports of fish and fishery products in Oman (tonnes)
Table 12 – Oman -Total imports of fish and fishery products in Oman (tonnes)


Table 13 – Oman Total imports of fish and fishery products in Oman (USD 1 000)
Table 13 – Oman Total imports of fish and fishery products in Oman (USD 1 000)


Food securityGenerally, fish consumption varies greatly depending on the quantities of fish supply available for consumption produced from capture fisheries, cultured and/or imported fish. In Oman, the majority of fresh fish is consumed domestically, while the rest is exported. The government has recently introduced export controls over some of the traditional Omani fish. The Omani Government has taken measures to stabilize the high prices of fresh fish, which constitutes the basis of the Omani diet, although these measures have not been successful. In order to improve the availability of fresh fish in the domestic market, the Government has also temporarily banned the exports of five popular varieties of fresh fish, including kingfish and tuna. In conjunction with these measures, the Ministry is also developing auction halls, regional cold storage facilities and public markets to encourage fishermen to market their catch locally rather than truck it to the neighbouring Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Omani authorities plan to build nine new fishing harbours during the current 5-Year Development Plan (2011–2015). The new fishing harbours will be constructed along the entire coastline in Rakhyut, Taqah, Sadah, Al-Shuwaimiyah, Mahout, Duqm, Barka, Al-Musanaa and Liwa. In addition to this new development, existing harbours will be upgraded and undergo modernization so as to provide better services to the industry operators and for the well-being of their dependents.

The well-developed road network in Oman guarantees the rapid transportation of fish to the markets ensuring that quality and freshness are retained.
EmploymentThe total population in 2010 was estimated to 2 774 million (30% expatriates) growing at an average annual rate of 2.7 percent. The younger share of the population, i.e. less than 20 years of age, made up 82 percent of the Omani population. This constitutes an employment challenge. According to the figures of the 2010 population census over 55 percent of the population lives in the governorates of Batina and Muscat alone. Prior to the discovery of the natural oil resources, the vast majority of Omani worked in agriculture and fisheries up until the 1970s. At present it is estimated that fisheries employ around 40 000 individuals.

From 1980 to 2010, the number of fishermen increased by about 84 percent. As a significant amount of fish is exported to countries in the European Union, the United States of America and Japan, the sector is likely to offer significant employment opportunities particularly as the aquaculture industry develops. At present employment in the aquaculture sector remains insignificant.
Rural developmentThe fishery sector is vital in terms of food security and economic livelihood in a large portion of the Omani population. The sector has become an important contributor to the national economic development and is increasingly benefitting society as a whole. By enhancing fisheries production, there will be an increase in national food supplies that will help avert shortages in animal protein, contribute to food security measures and reduce imports.

This sector has also opened job opportunities to rural and urban populations, raised the standard of living of artisanal fishermen, developed infrastructures and expanded the availability of services in rural fishing communities. Increased fisheries activities have helped to improve the utilization of fish landings, the development of value-added products, and promoted marketing and inter- and intra-regional trade and distribution.

The productivity and renewability of the fisheries are both dependent on high-quality management and conservation of the natural environment. Therefore, better management of the currently overexploited stocks, cautious utilization of under- or non-harvested marine species, expansion of aquaculture, and improvements in post-harvest utilization are prerequisites for the development of the national fisheries sector and support to a sustainable and long-term development of rural communities.

Investment in fisheries would also encourage people to stay in their towns and villages, and slow the migration to the cities. Investments in projects in remote localities generating activities, employment and income, will definitely allow people to stay in their hometowns.
Trends, issues and developmentConstraints and opportunitiesIn order to support the fisheries sector, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth has placed considerable attention to the development of this important economic sector covering both harvest and post-harvest activities. Close cooperation has been established with all relevant ministries and public agencies as well as the private sector. This special attention was well reflected in the previous 5-Year National Development Plan (2006–2010) and has been further renewed in the current plan (2011–2015).

According to the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia the factors that have been afflicting the performance of the fish exporters in Oman were poor post-harvest fish handling practices, underutilization of processing plants’ capacity due to insufficient supply of fish, and avoidance of local fishermen to supply fish to local processors because of their high fish quality requirements (ESCWA, 2007). The other issues that are believed to have influence over the fish sector include (DFD, 2009b; Qatan et al., 2010):
  • Political factors – influence of government stability, high political interest to improve the fisheries sector, political pressure from fishermen and vessels owners, influence of fishermen and vessel owners on policy making and contributing to political decisions, training effort, international agreements (e.g. IOTC, RECOFI), and regional trade agreement.
  • Economic factors – low average catches affect fishermen’s incomes and availability of capital to invest in improvements, types of fishing gears used (quality and quantity), vessel and costal fleets contribution in total landing, ease of access to loans, low purchasing power among a large group of customers in the domestic market and governmental policy to diversify source of income.
  • Sociological factors – awareness of the nutritional value, quality and safety of fish, zonation of the resource, fishermen’s dependency on the sector as secondary source of income, age of fishermen, lack of specialized education among fishermen and influence of media.
  • Technological factors – lack of infrastructure in landing sites, efficiency of small fishing boats in terms of fishing effort and quality of fish, inferior boat design, inferior harbours design especially for small boats, fisheries processors capacities (storage, processing and value added), selectivity of fishing gear (i.e. gillnets), lack of technological improvements (e.g. freezers, insulating boxes) and transport facilities (cool box, automatic refrigerators).
  • Legal factors – enforcement of the regulations, quality standards (food safety, hygiene standards, fish handling), control of landing sites and access to the resource, international market requirement (i.e. quality, safety, eco-labelling), regulating industrial and coastal fleets (i.e. gears, landing and marketing and transferrable quotas).
  • Environmental factors – sustainability of fish stocks and overfishing, international need for eco-labelling, weather seasonality, attitudes to the environment from the government, media and consumers, fish species, on-board hygienic conditions and in landing sites, current and future environmental legislative changes.
  • Marketing factors – large numbers of uncontrolled landing centres and absent or poor market services at landing centres, absence of wholesale markets to control the distribution between production and consumption areas in the local markets and export to neighbouring countries, small-scale fishermen and seasonal landings of fish affect the supply of fish in the markets and the effect of truckers in the fresh fish market in terms of controlling landing sites, poor handling and the direct export of fresh fish to GCC markets.
Many of these issues are being effectively tackled by the authorities and progress in this regards has been tangible.

In Oman, the limited harvesting capacity, the lack of technological advancement and the economic performance of the current traditional fishing fleet, constitute a real opportunity to increase capture fisheries production and improve the quality of landings and hence improve the overall performance of the sector. This performance is advancing steadily as a strategic decision has been taken to ensure responsible management practices.

With specific regard to aquaculture, the National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development published in 2007 by the Ministry provides the general guidelines for the sustainable development of the aquaculture sector at the national level. The development of this sector is expanding and currently taking significant strides in terms of research, development and extension. Developing technologies for indigenous species is a priority and based on scientific research conducted using environmentally and socially responsible parameters set by the Government.

Cage aquaculture is still an economic activity in its infant stages of development. The major constraints identified in the establishment of fish cages, particularly along the north-western shores of the Arabian Gulf, have been the limited availability of suitable farming sites characterized by shallow waters, highly fluctuating salinity and temperature levels and inadequate sea currents. Other limitations included price competition from wild-caught fish, inadequate farming technologies for the region and the limited availability of endemic candidate species of commercial importance suitable for cage aquaculture (RECOFI, 2009).

Moreover, a national code of best management practice for aquaculture provided the link to achieving the goals as guided by existing government regulations. Freshwater aquaculture, which, among others activities, provides livelihood to inland communities, must be expanded and integrated with existing agricultural activities.

Human resource development and capacity building are also important aspects for the proper implementation of current development programmes. The Government of Oman has taken measures to ensure that production processes pass through environmentally and socially responsible utilization of the country’s natural resources and with thorough cooperation from the private sector.

The Government furthermore provides tax exemption for five years and renewable for a further five years (subject to certain conditions) for Omani companies involved in fishing, fish processing, fish farming and aquaculture (Saslo, 2010).
Government and non-government sector policies and development strategiesThe Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth has been taking strategic measures over the recent years to increase the contribution of the fisheries sector to the GDP from 1.1 percent in 1995 a 2 percent target in 2020. The sector is viewed by the authorities as having a strong potential to directly and indirectly contribute to the country’s future food security and achieve a higher than expected growth rate of about 5.6 percent by 2020. The following factors are likely to contribute to the growth expected:
  • Sustainable utilization of the available fish reserves and resource conservation and promotion of a sustainable development. In order to develop and design effective management measures to ensure long-term viability of the marine fisheries, the size of the stock and its productive potential will be carefully evaluated.
  • Utilizing modern and high value-added technologies in the development of traditional fishing boats and fishing methods and establishing and completing infrastructure necessary for the fishing industry in the form of fishing ports and supply industries (Table 15).
  • Amending the policy of issuing commercial fishing licences with the objective of increasing the value of locally unloaded fish, improving the composition of quality of the catch, processing and the canning of fish and by furthering the sector’s forward linkage.
The Ministry is continuously reviewing its regulatory measures to improve efficiency of fisheries operations and to protect and conserve the resources. It is also playing a key role in regional fisheries organizations (e.g. the FAO Regional Committee on Fisheries [RECOFI], and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission [IOTC]) for the protection and conservation of shared fisheries resources in the region.

For the Sustainable Fishery Development Strategy towards 2030, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth is defining the road map for the completion of the sustainable fisheries and aquaculture development strategy with the technical support of international organizations such as FAO.
  • Improving the collection, quality and analysis of the fisheries sector resources, capture effort, production, and processing and market data.
  • Conducting a detailed SWOT analysis for the fishery sector, as well as a number of technical studies to synthetically review and assess performance of Omani fisheries and aquaculture sub-sector and related policies and to chart the way for its development towards 2030 and preparation of the required master plans.
  • Formulating medium-term action plans including investment requirements, designing a result-based M&E system to enhance management as well as revisiting institutions to be assigned with implementing the master plans.
  • Enhancing capacities of organs involved at the central, governorates and local community levels in all activities performed in the design of the fishery strategy, master plans and the result-based management system.


Table 14 – Oman -Outboard engine and boats distributed to fishermen by year

YearNo. of fishermen beneficiaries BoatEngineCraneGPSFish findersCages for shrimp, fishingLong- lines

Fish

boxes

2010236 100 154 260 55 0 46 26
2011465 119 325 51 12 4 0 2 100
20123 439 1 454 2 673 246 59 58 20 00045 28
Source: Agricultural & Fisheries Statistical Year Book 2012.
Research, education and trainingResearchThe research projects that have been finalized in Oman over the past three years totalled 25 projects in different research fields related to fisheries and aquaculture. A further 37 research projects are ongoing. In 2012, nine research studies were carried out on quality control alone, while others on fish biology, fish culture, marine environment, fisheries monitoring and statistics and fisheries extension (Table 16) were either carried out in specialized research centres and institutes or universities and other organizations.

Table 15 – Oman - Number of completed and ongoing research projects in Oman in support of the capture fisheries and aquaculture sectors.

Research fieldCompleted research projectsOngoing research projects
 201020112012201020112012
Research biology021320
Marine environment011220
Aquaculture021220
Quality control013330
Development400300
Marketing000110
Socio-economics010240
Fish stock020680
Fish monitoring011221
Subsidy010110
Fishery statistics001110
Fishing gear000110
Extension services011110
TOTAL412928281


With regard to the completed fisheries projects, Oman undertook:
  • A remote sensing study of the movement of commercial vessels.
  • A fish resources assessment survey to provide spatial habitat information.
  • A collection of available remote sensing data such as sea-surface temperature SST, sea currents and chlorophyll-a.
In 2011 and with the establishment of the Aquaculture Center, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth has conducted research in the following areas: 1) stock enhancement of abalone through re-stocking of hatchery-produced juveniles; 2) development of breeding and culture techniques for marine fishes like sea breams and groupers; and 3) sea cucumber fishery and reproductive biology, breeding and seed production for stock enhancement and commercial aquaculture.

In order to further strengthen the development of the aquaculture industry the authorities have made plans to cover research programmes on the domestication and broodstock development of selected commercially valuable species, including controlled breeding and seed production, nutrition and feed development, physiology and genetics, and fish health and environment safety.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth through the Aquaculture Centre has developed techniques for the seed production and culture of the Omani abalone (Haliotis mariae). A hatchery manual on Omani abalone seed production was published in 2012 to highlight the research conducted on this species and currently serves as a technical guide to interested government and private hatchery technicians and aquaculturists.

Oman has completed an atlas entitled “Atlas of Suitable Sites for Aquaculture Projects” which contains satellite imagery and information relevant for site selection or suitability studies for aquaculture.
Education and trainingIn Oman, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth organizes annual training activities for fisheries extension officers in all six governorates. Since 2010 a large number of fishermen benefit from the technical support given and over OMR 40 000 have been spent on training.

Seminars and workshops and other extension activities on a variety of technical topics are provided throughout the year in each of the governorate in Oman. The number of beneficiaries of either individual or public media including newspaper article, radio and television programme is given in Table 16.

Table 16 - Activities of fisheries extension that was provided between 2010 and 2012 in Oman

  No. of beneficiaries of technical support

Support

(R.O.)

No. of beneficiaries (individual media) No. of beneficiaries (public media)
2010 1 268 577 688 21 357 213
2011 519 401 510 23 864 191


The Government has placed considerable effort into building up capacity and has established two fishing institutes with the aim of training and qualifying the Omani youth to enable them to sail boats in coastal areas and open seas, to use the latest fishing equipment and ensure fish quality by adopting modern storage facilities. These goals also include developing capabilities of youth in the fisheries sector, providing Omanis with more job opportunities, developing fishing methods and equipment in the country, enhancing revenue of fisheries, assisting in conducting research and studies relating to the fish sector. The institutes provide regular training to the fishermen in different fisheries aspects such as the use of fishing gears and quality.
Foreign aidNo information is available with regard to this section.
Institutional frameworkThe Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth is the authority responsible for the development of aquaculture in Oman and for the management of the entire fisheries sector. It coordinates all relevant issues with other ministries and government departments with a role in the development of the fisheries and aquaculture sector. The different institutions that work under this Ministry are:
  • The Directorate General of Fisheries Development. This Directorate established in 2000 the Aquaculture Development Department and thus following the importance that the sector of aquaculture has gained recently (increase of the level of interest, as well as in the number of applications, received from the private sector regarding investment in aquaculture). Investment proposals are received by the Department for technical evaluation.
  • The General Directorate of Fisheries Research (GDFR), the Marine Sciences and Fisheries Centre, Fish Quality Control Centre (ensure the quality of fish products, make sure that companies comply with existing hygienic and quality assurance norms and regulations including the application of an appropriate HACCP system), the Aquaculture Centre (conducts scientific research dealing with all aspects of marine and freshwater aquaculture, provides scientific and technical advice on aquaculture and related topics), the Statistics and Fisheries Information Department and the Fisheries Research Centre.
  • The General Directorate of Administrative and Financial Affairs.
  • The Directorate General of Fisheries in Dhofar Governorate.
  • The Directorate General of Fisheries in the Eastern Province.
  • The Directorate General of Fisheries in the Batinah Region.
  • The Department of Fisheries in Musandam Governorate.
  • The Department of Fisheries, Central Region.
  • The Department of Public Relations and Media develop the media plans in order to highlight the role and achievements of the Ministry and the importance of fisheries in the development of the national economy by showing the areas of investment in this sector, both internally and externally. The media programmes and audio-visual materials necessary to implement the activities of the Ministry are also prepared and produced by this department.
  • The Department of International Cooperation.
The Government is the ultimate authority when taking any decisions related to the development of the fisheries sector through consultation with the Senate committees. The structure of management committees in each of the coastal towns are chaired by the “wali” (local Governor) and have the following members: a Shura council member, a representative of the fishing community and a representative of the Ministry.

The Aquaculture Committee, which is responsible for the evaluation of applications received from the private sector, and chaired by the Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth is very active. The Committee is made up of representatives from the Ministry itself, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications. Other areas of responsibility include the determination of appropriate sites for each application, and monitoring the development of the investment projects.There are three main agencies that have policy input into fisheries and marine management. They are:
  • The Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Environment.
  • The Ministry of Communications, Directorate General of Ports and Maritime Affairs, which is responsible for maritime pollution and response. It is assigned to regulate navigation and maritime transport activities in the maritime areas under the sovereignty and authority of the Sultanate of Oman and control the ships flying the flag of Oman, wherever they are, in accordance with the Maritime Law of Oman issued by Royal Decree No. (35/81) and the Law for Regulation of Navigation in the Omani Territorial Waters issued by the Royal Decree No. (98/81), as well as to examine the need for joining the International and Regional Maritime Conventions, Treaties and Codes and to implement the Maritime Conventions the Sultanate of Oman is already a party to. The Directorate also administers compliance with the requirements of the Safety of Life at Sea and Protection of Maritime Environment from pollution as well as Ships and Ports Security Requirements. In addition, it investigates the maritime accidents occurring in the Omani Territorial Sea, issues Navigational Warnings to all Craft and Seagoing Units and exercising the State Port Control for foreign ships. Moreover, it maintains the link between the Government of the Sultanate and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and issues Ships Registration Certificates, Navigational Licences and Seaman's Documents as required.
  • Sultan Qaboos University, College of Fisheries, which not only runs degree programmes for fisheries managers and scientists, but also undertakes fisheries research.


Legal frameworkRegional and international legal frameworkThe Sultanate of Oman is a member of the Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI) which is responsible for promoting the development, conservation, rational management and best utilization of living marine resources, as well as the sustainable development of aquaculture within its area of Agreement. The Commission has established two subsidiary bodies, the Working Group on Fisheries Management (WGFM) and the Working Group on Aquaculture (WGA).

Oman is also an active member of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). Oman ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1989, but has not ratified the UN Fish Stocks Agreement or the FAO Compliance Agreement.
The by-laws or the regulatory framework for aquaculture farming are now in place and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth has only recently started calling for investments in aquaculture and fisheries.

The basic fisheries law of Oman is contained within the Marine Fishing and Living Aquatic Resources Protection Law, 1981 (The Fisheries Law). Executive Regulations of the Law have been subsequently issued in 1982 (Ministerial Decision No. 3/82) and in 1994 (Ministerial Decision 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 includes Ministerial Decision No. 136/98 of 1998 concerning Quality Control Regulations of Omani Exported Fish and Ministerial Decision No. 121/98 of 1998, concerning Conditions and Specifications of Industrial Fishing Vessels Equipped for Preservation and Handling of Fish Products. Other Ministerial Decisions have also been issued from time to time.

The Fisheries Law defines the powers of the DGFR and provides for a range of mechanisms to develop the fisheries sector. While its prime focus is fisheries development, it does contain provisions for controlling fishing activities and for protecting marine life and habitats, particularly within the Executive Regulations. The Fisheries Law and subsequent Regulations also contain the details of the administration of fisheries in Oman, including the ability to license vessels and fishermen.

The Fisheries Law does not provide for the preparation of management plans for individual fisheries but is, in essence, more development-oriented and includes details on the administration of fisheries.

Although the basic Fisheries Law is a relatively old piece of legislation, it has not yet been further reviewed or revised, apart from the issue of specific Resolutions and Decrees that define details of the Fisheries Law. However, the DGFR is currently preparing a draft of revised Executive Regulations.Regional and international legal frameworkIn Oman, the legal framework for GCC and foreign investment is a combination of regional and international agreements and local laws. Examples of agreements which have had a remarkable impact on the size of GCC and foreign investments in Oman are:
  • The Unified Economic Agreements Between Countries of GCC signed on 1981 & 2002 (UEA)
  • The Marrakesh Agreement on the Establishment of World Trade Organization (WTO), ratified by Sultan Decree number 112/2000
  • The Free Trade Agreement with the USA (FTA), ratified by Sultan number 109/2006
  • The Free Trade Agreement between the Republic of Singapore and GCC states, ratified by Sultan Decree number 8/2009
  • The Free Trade Agreement between GCC states and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), ratified by Sultan Decree 43/2010
  • Bilateral Investment Agreement between Oman and other states like Britain, France, Pakistan, Austrian and Yemen.
The obligations in the agreements are reflected in local laws and regulations in the form of Sultan Decrees issued by His Majesty, the Sultan or Ministerial Decisions issued by his ministers. The main local law which regulates foreign ownership is the Foreign Investment Law (FCIL), promulgated by Sultan Decree number 102/94 as amended.

The most common legal form adopted by foreigners to carry out business in Oman is a limited liability company (LLC). An LLC must have at least two shareholders, often referred to as partners in LLCs. One of them must be an Omani national (whether natural or corporate entity) with an ownership of at least a 30 percent shareholding of the company.

Oman’s accession to the Unified Economic Agreements Between Countries of GCC and the subsequent issuance of high GCC council decisions and ministerial decisions to implement the provisions of the said agreement, has resulted in permission for GCC nationals to own the 100 percent shareholding of an Omani corporate entity (with a few exceptions, for example commercial agencies).

American nationals are accorded similar treatment as Omanis following the implementation of the provisions of the Free Trade Agreement with the USA, with the exception of the activities included in a list enclosed in a separate schedule to the trade agreement. These excluded activities are common to all foreign nationals.

Apart from GCC and American nationals, the practice implemented by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry responsible for the registration of companies in Oman is that a foreign investor may not own more than a 70 percent shareholding in the share capital of a corporate entity, and the remaining is legally required to be owned by a local Omani partner as mentioned above. However, the profit and loss of the business can be split between the foreign and local shareholder on any other percentage, as it does not need to be proportionate to the shareholding ownership. This depends on the partners’ contribution in the business which is entirely a commercial arrangement.
References
FAO. 2011. Review of the state of the world fishery resources. Inland Fisheries 2011. 97 pp.
FAO/Regional Commission for Fisheries. 2009. Report of the Regional Technical Workshop on Sustainable Marine Cage Aquaculture Development. Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, 25–26 January 2009. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Report. No. 892. Rome, FAO. 2009. 135 pp.
Ministry of Fisheries Wealth. 2012. Agricultural and fisheries statistical year book for the Sultanate of Oman 2012. Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
Al-Rashdi, K. 2012. A manual on hatchery and seed production of Omani abalone, Haliotis mariae, in the Sultanate of Oman. Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
Al-Mazrooei, N. & Huang, C.L. 1998. Consumer Behavior and Fish Market Development in Oman. Journal of international food and agribusiness marketing; 9(4): 63–80.
Fermin, A.C., M. Balkhair & Ali Al-Musheki. 2010. Breeding and Seed Production of the Omani abalone, Haliotis mariae (Wood 1828). A final report submitted to Fisheries Research Center-Salalah. Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, General Directorate of Fisheries Research, Ministry of Fisheries Wealth .
Salalah, Dhofar, Sultanate of Oman. 32 pp. (Unpublished report).
Ibrahim, F.S. 2004. Reproductive biology of wild goldlined seabream, Rhabdosargus sarba, captive breeding and larval development in the Sultanate of Oman. PhD thesis, University of Stirling, Scotland, U.K, 344 pp.
Ibrahim, F.S., Krishen, J.R., Goddard, J.S., Al-Amri, I. S., 2005. Morphological development of post-hatch larvae goldlined seabream, Rhabdosargus sarba (Forskål, 1775). Aquaculture Research 37: 1156–1164.
Ibrahim, F.S. 2010. The effect of variable incubation temperatures on hatchability and survival of goldlined seabream, Rhabdosargus sarba (Forsskal, 1775) larvae. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, 65: 1153–1156.
Ibrahim, F.S., .Krishen, J.R., A. Ambu Ali, Goddard, J.S., 2010. A histological study of maturity in male goldlined seabream Rhabdosargus sarba (Forskål, 1775) in the Sea of Oman. Journal of Applied Ichthyology 26(6): 892–897.
Ibrahim, F.S (2011). Breeding of native grouper and seabream as a candidate species for aquaculture in the Sultanate of Oman. Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries Wealth, Aquaculture Centre, Oman. 112 pp.
ESCWA. 2007. Trade and environment dimensions of the fisheries sector in the Arab countries: the case study of Yemen and Oman. United Nations, New York: ESCWA [December 10, 2011] (also available at http://www.uneca.org/fssdd/events/WorkshopTradeJan2011/Documents/west_asia/ESCWA%20Fisheries%20Study-25Oct07-Final.pdf.
Department of Fisheries Development (DFD). 2009. Fish Markets survey. Department of Fisheries Development, Ministry of Fisheries Wealth, Muscat. Sultanate of Oman.
Qatan, S.S. 2010. Evaluating the governance system of seafood quality and safety: a survey -based case study of seafood industries in the sultanate of Oman. Sultan Qaboos University. Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
Qatan, S., Knútsson, Ö. & Gestsson, H. 2010. Operating a wholesale fish market in the Sultanate of Oman. Analyses of external factors. UNU-Fisheries Training Programme. (also available at www.unuftp.is/static/fellows/document/salim2010p).
Saslo. 2010. Report: A legal guide to doing business in Oman. www.saslo.com/Doing%20Business.pdf‎.

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