Oman Observer

Divers, fishermen educated about Abalone fishing

MIRBAT: The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is making great efforts to educate fishermen and divers on the importance of Abalone as a wealth and on the effects and malpractices in the fishing of Abalone on the divers. Arif bin Mohsen al Yafei, Director of the Fisheries Development Department, in the Wilayat of Mirbat said that the ministry has enacted several legal and administrative controls to regulate and take advantage of this resource. These mainly relate to determining the legal size (shell not less than 90 millimetres), determining the diving season and the introduction of a system of licences for diving and Abalone trade that are renewed annually, not allowing the use of oxygen cylinders and diving equipment, floodlights underwater and rocks flipping. The ministry annually determines the diving season for Abalone fishing.
He said that the preparations made before the start of the season, by issuing licences for divers and traders who meet the conditions. He pointed out that the number of renewed licences this year in Mirbat totalled about 1,300 and 3 licences for Abalone processing. He added that during the season, there is a supervisory team to curb the excesses of divers and another awareness team to educate divers and instruct them on the provisions and procedures for the season, to protect this wealth. Abalone is a mollusk sea snail that feeds on algae and seaweed. Other names of Abalone are ear shells, sea ears, and muttonfish or mutton shells in Australia, Ormer in Britain, Perlemoen in South Africa and Paua in New Zealand.
It lives glued to bottom surfaces of the rocks, inside an oval shell with rough surface from the outside, and a row of holes in the sides to help it breathes. It is a night creature as it turns active at night, but less active during the day, where it hides in burrows and rock crevices to avoid many predators.
Abalone tops the list of delicacies on the luxurious tables. It belongs to the molluscs category. Their taxonomy puts them in the family Halitosis, which contains only one genus. All types of Abalone belong to one species, called Halitosis, mean sea ear in Latin. The scientific name of the Abalone of the Sultanate’s waters is ‘Halitosis Maria,’ a kind that is unique to the Sultanate in the world.
Abalone meat is characterised by abundant proteins, a combination of vitamins and minerals. It is rich with selenium and magnesium, as well as necessary minerals for the construction of the body such as calcium, iron, potassium and zinc, in addition to vitamin “B12” and vitamin “E”.
Abalone traps pose great importance economically and socially for citizens in the Governorate of Dhofar. Abalone is also an income source for many families. The price of one kilo of Abalone ranged between RO 30 to RO 70.
Abalone is a rare marine creature that abounds in Omani waters only, compared to other Arab states. Its season is of the most important fishing seasons in the Governorate of Dhofar. Its presence is confined to the beaches between the Wilayat of Mirbat and the Niyabat of Sharbathat in the Wilayat of Shaleem and Al Halaniyat Islands, in addition to a small trap in the Niyabat of Souqrah in the Governorate of Al Wusta. There are also other types of Abalone in China, Japan, South Africa, Canada, America and Australia.
Divers prepare themselves before the season, by exercising running in order to strengthen the ability of the respiratory system and to open up the lungs.  They also practice swimming to strengthen the heart muscle and increase efficiency of the circulatory system. Due to the increasing numbers of divers significantly in the past years, some wrong practices have emerged in the process of fishing Abalone, which endanger this important wealth. — ONA