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Vessel sinking off PSQ affects livelihood of Sidab fishermen

Fishermen say the floating bitumen has damaged their nets (Muscat Daily)

Muscat - 

Nisar R3 was carrying 816 tonnes of bitumen which spilled into the sea. The sinking of Nisar R3, a Cypriot vessel, 1.4 nautical miles off Port Sultan Qaboos (PSQ) on Wednesday has hit Sidab's fishing industry hard. The vessel was carrying 816 tonnes of bitumen, which spilled into the sea, leading to pollution and forcing fishermen to sail 30km away from the coast for their daily catch.

Sulaiman al Akhazami, director, department of planning and studies, Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, (MECA), said, “Sea waves take bitumen to the shore, but a high tide brings it back. I don't expect floating bitumen to impact marine life, unlike an oil spill which affects the coastline and settles in one place. However, this can only be confirmed after sample analysis. We have formed teams to study environmental impact and waste management. Our biggest challenge, however, is to lift the ship.”

Yousuf al Wahaibi, a Sidab-based fisherman said that there is a lot of bitumen floating near the coastline. “Most fishermen here do not have the equipment to go far away from the coast. They usually get a good catch near the coastline.

“Many fishing nets were damaged on Saturday after they got caught in floating bitumen. A fishing net costs RO200 to RO250.

“Floating bitumen is leading to pollution in the area and affecting our livelihood,” Wahaibi said.

“You need advanced boats and equipment to fish far away from the coast. My boat was also damaged by floating bitumen, and I had to spent RO160 to repair its two engines. What if it isn’t cleared for another week or so? If this was a tourist spot, would it be left uncleared?”

Another fisherman, Abu Bakar al Riyami, said that his usual catch in a day is around 100kg, but on Saturday it was only 33kg. “It dropped further to 15kg on Sunday. The whole area has been polluted, and I doubt the catch will increase anytime soon.”

Meanwhile, clean-up operation implemented by MECA in the area between PSQ and Sifah continued for the third consecutive day, according to a statement released on Monday. A committee has been formed to manage the operation.

Companies specialising in such operations have also been called in. Experts from regional and international organisations will assist in the investigation and recovery operations of the vessel.

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