Amid laws and regulations, strict monitoring and campaign to create public awareness, the marine environment is still a victim of pollution, which is a major cause of concern. In the Sultanate, the marine environment with its beautiful coastline extending over 3,165 km is one of the most important economic, social and environmental factors, with natural resources and aesthetic views overlooking three seas — Arabian Sea, Sea of Oman and Arabian Gulf.
However, studies have found that geographical location has made the Sultanate more vulnerable to marine pollution in the region. This has led to active maritime traffic coupled with frequent illegal practices carried out by ships in the territorial waters of the Sultanate.
Although oil pollution is the most serious type, chemical contamination resulted from the impact of waste water, agricultural residues, subsequent insecticides and other wastes including plastic that are dumped into the sea are the major polluting factors.
Recent statistics reveal that there have been 94 cases relating to marine pollution, since the beginning of 2019. Out of these, 21 cases are related to oil pollution, eight to shipwreck and collision incidents, five reports of transporting sand from the shore, one for the red tide and 59 other reports on other types of pollutants.
To protect its marine environment, the Sultanate continues its efforts to review and modernise laws and legislation, update studies and plans for coastal zone management.
These include preparation of a national strategy for the protection of the marine environment, assess marine resources, establish natural reserves, continue rehabilitation of affected areas and develop plans and requirements related to the marine environment.
In addition to these is the continuous coordination with all bodies, committees, sectors and associations concerned with the marine environment to cooperate for the preservation of resources and biodiversity. Efforts are being made to reduce ocean acidification to a minimum and address its effects, inter alia, by promoting scientific cooperation at all levels.
Also development projects are being evaluated and monitored to ensure their environmental suitability and the requirements to limit their impact on the marine environment and the nature of the Omani coast.
In the area of increasing scientific knowledge, the Marine Science and Fisheries Centre and the Fish Quality Control Centre, all concerned with the development of fisheries and the control of water quality for the protection of fisheries, have been established.
To facilitate the access of small artisanal fishermen to marine resources and markets, fishing ports have been established in most coastal areas and fish landing centres to facilitate fishers.
A national task force has been formed to study the causes of mortality and the trends of mammals and turtles, which is one of the indicators of the health of the marine environment and one of the essential elements of the marine ecosystem. As part of the Sultanate’s participation in the Clean Seas Campaign of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), an integrated programme to clean coral reef environments was implemented in 2018.
ARTIFICIAL CORAL STRUCTURES
Consistent with biodiversity development approaches, the Sultanate has sought to spread many artificial coral structures in both Al Fahal Island, Damaniyat Islands and Musandam Governorate.
The project has been a success; nearly 500 industrial molds have been produced so far.
The Sultanate also dropped a number of floating wharves in Bandar Al Khairan and Bandar Al Jissah, as well as the Damaniyat Islands Nature Reserve, with the aim of protecting coral reefs from the damage of boat anchors as they land on the seafloor.
Mangroves are one of the main components of the Omani marine environment. There is one species in the Sultanate of Oman, Avicenna Marina, able to adapt to the nature of the Omani environment, and is distributed in several coastal areas.
There are also several species of marine turtles including the Loggerhead Turtle (the second largest population of Loggerhead Turtles in the world is located by the Sultanate), the Hawksbill Turtle, the Green Turtle, the Olive Ridley Turtle and the Leatherback Turtle.
Oman has 21 species of large whales and dolphins, of which 17 are small to large dolphins, 3 species of baleen whales and toothed whales.
The development projects are being evaluated and monitored to ensure their environmental suitability and the requirements to limit their impact on the marine environment and the nature of the Omani coast.