Abalone survey shows decline in stocks

Muscat: The Directorate General of Agriculture and Fisheries in the Governorate of Dhofar surveyed abalone stocks (Abalone Survey 2020) during the period from March 15 and April 15 this year.

The survey, which took place in Mirbat, Sadah, Hadbien and Hasik, was aimed at defining biological indicators—including density, accumulation and sizes of abalone—and comparing these to the outcome of previous surveys.

As many as 32 sites were scrutinized in the four areas by using a 100m-long Transect rope.

The survey showed that the density of abalone dropped seriously by 41 per cent, compared to the 2019 survey, in all areas under study, with Hadbein accounting for the most major decline in stocks by about 58 per cent.

Abalone density’s decline in the 2020 Survey caps the findings of a 15-year span from 2006 to 2020. It is clear that continuous decline has been the norm in, at least, the last 10 years. The study shows that abalone stock in the Sultanate has been unable to recover to normal rates registered since 2011 (0.39 amassment). This clearly indicates that the natural stock has reached acritical stage and that it is difficult to predict its ability to recover in the near future.

Many studies show that the least rate of abalone amassment in its natural habitat that guarantees a successful reproduction process is not less than 0.20 to 0.15.

But the amassment or accumulation rates of natural stocks of abalone are far beyond recovery in the near future.

As for size, the average size of abalone in the surveyed areas dropped from 67.4mm in 2019 to 65.4mm in the current survey, less by 3 per cent. Small and medium sizes in 2020 constitute 93.5 per cent of the natural stocks.

In the meantime, the presence of octopus (Octopus cyanea or Day Octopus) in the natural habitats of abalone in the governorate of Dhofar is quite small. It poses no direct risk to abalone and it is not likely to blame for the dwindling stocks. Also, it is known that abalone does not constitute a major part of octopus feed, though octopus is considered a predator of abalones. –ONA

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