MUSCAT: There is long-term fall in spiny lobster catch as the annual harvest has declined from 2,000 tonnes in the 1980s to only about 485 tonnes in 2016. To counteract this, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has announced targeted regulations and recommendations that are primarily based on data from growth, mortality and catch. However, the scientists who did a project on this said to achieve a comprehensive management for the species, a wide range of biological aspects, including demographic interactions of individuals and genetic structuring of the whole population, should be considered.
This will contribute in understanding variations within and between lobster stocks, and will enable the ministry officials to introduce regional management and improve possible discrete stocks. The Sultanate in its Ninth Five-Year Development Plan (2016-2020) has identified fisheries as a key sector for contributing to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). In support of fisheries and aquaculture development, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has conducted extensive surveys of potential sites, developed a comprehensive guide to better management practices for fisheries and aquaculture, and developed a national strategic plan.
With about 3,100 km of coastline and a home to more than 900 species of fish and crustaceans, the Sultanate has long been the largest seafood supplier in the Gulf. The landing was around 280,000 tonnes in 2016, valued at more than RO 240 million. The project, funded by The Research Council (TRC), scientists at the Centre of Excellence in Marine Biotechnology (CEMB) at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), used state-of-the-art genetic tools to examine population structures of spiny lobster along the entire coastline of Oman.
Ensuring a sustainable and long-term viable fish of marine species will contribute in creating diversity in economy, in addition to generating wealth and foreign currency earnings via exports and increase in gross domestic product and employment.
All these objectives are in line with the national ambitions of the government and will be of long-term benefit to citizens.
The report found that the gross unit revenue from lobsters has increased from around RO 3,000 per tonne in the 1980s to more than RO 5,000 per tonne in 2016. This has accelerated the demand for lobster and contributes to the current over exploitation that lobster fishing is experiencing.
In Oman, the major commercial species, the scalloped spiny lobster, Panulirus homarus (P homarus), inhabits the Arabian Sea coast between Ras al Hadd and Dhalkout. It is a reef dwelling species, most abundant on coral and coastal fringing rocky reefs and the areas surrounding these.
The project is led by Dr Madjid Delghandi, senior scientist, at the Centre of Excellence in Marine Biotechnology.
This work is unique and describes a collaborative effort between domestic scientists from the CEMB, the ministry, and the College of Agriculture and Marine Science at SQU, along with international collaborators from Australia and South Africa.
The knowledge will strongly contribute to sustainable management of fisheries and subsequently protect spiny lobster stock in Oman.
It also supports future activities related to commercial aquaculture developments of this species in Oman and in other tropical regions.
The results from this study indicate the presence of two major stocks of scalloped spiny lobsters in Oman, one consisting of stock from Al Sharqiyah and Al Wusta governorates, while the second one includes spiny lobsters from Dhofar.
Findings support the idea of regional management measures for these genetically different stocks. Findings of the project have been published in seven scientific manuscripts in international journals with high impact factors.
The other members of the team involved in this project are Rufaida al Buraiki, PhD student, Abdulaziz al Marzouqi, General Director of Fisheries Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr Hussein Samh al Masroori, Assistant Professor, Department of Marine Science and Fisheries, and Mohammed al Abri, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, College of Agriculture and Marine Sciences, SQU.