Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Shawwal 3, 1445 H
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Understanding the charm and importance of the sardine season


Photos by Mohammed Tabook -

Fishing is one of the top professions in the Gulf area. With lands overlooking three seas, the Arabian Peninsula is an ideal environment for breeding different fishes. Oman being part of this peninsula, the Sultanate's more than 3000km coast allows fishermen to make a profession out of fishing exploring and thriving in vast marine sanctuaries filled with gifts of the sea.

Like many professions, fishing is a labour-intensive job that requires great effort, endurance and patience. Fishermen have to spend hours at sea not only battling waves and nature but also anxiety and stress. Yet they endure and it is because of their effort that people in Oman can enjoy a wide variety of seafood on their plates.

Called Al Dhawaghi in Oman, the sardine fishing season is an annual event that traces its origin to ancient times. Omanis of today had preserved many of the old traditions and still participate in such events when the 'captain' calls for it.

When Al Dhawaghi happens, a group of 20 to 30 men come together for the harvest. The season happens from October to April.

To successfully net sardines, the group must be organized and cover each other's backs. The method of fishing goes through several successive stages, starting from locating the spot, throwing the nets and dragging them to the beach and ending with loading them into the drying

In Dhofar, fishermen in the area prepare giant nets that are carried in 'sunbouq' boats. These fishermen are referred to locally as Nawakhthah. The nets are spread across a wide area and once it's securely put in place, ideally on places with sightings of sardines, the men will pull these nets toward the shores.

The fishing process begins in the early morning by going to the sea to take tours and follow the movement of seagulls that are usually behind large quantities of sardines (Auma) or to search for dark spots in the sea, which also indicates the presence of large quantities of sardines.

After locating the sardines, the fishing starts by lowering the nets and tying them on both sides with long ropes shaping a crescent and then a semicircle, after which the net is gradually narrowed to collect a large amount of sardine fish.

Al Dhawaghi is led by the captain and 3-4 sailors who are known for their diving skills where they can dive in the depths of the sea to monitor the movement of sardines and trap them. It consists of two boats equipped with four machines of (40-60) horsepower.

As of late, practising Al Dhawaghi has become more challenging for fishermen. The rise of tourism projects in indigenous fishing grounds creates a roadblock making it impossible to fish in these areas.

Al Dhawaghi is a very old tradition as benefited citizens for generations. It also plays a big role for livestock owners who depend on sardines as feed for their animals and supply them with natural protein.

Ali Al Mashani one of the fishermen shared that recently, there has been more interest for non-fishermen to join the activity bringing back life to the sardine season.

This Fishing season is considered a remarkable event by Omani and non-Omani photographers. Even tourists can see the traditional methods of fishing and they are given an idea of how it is effectively passed on from generation to generation.

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