Forty four new species of fish have been identified in Omani waters. Apart from these, 986 new species have been registered which were thought to exist but never scientifically recorded. These findings were revealed by the Biodiversity Project of the Marine Sciences and Fisheries Centre, Ministry of Fisheries, which is conducting a quantitative and qualitative distribution survey of the marine organisms in the Omani waters.
Funded by the Agriculture and Fisheries Development Fund, the main aim of the project is to gain a detailed knowledge of the fish biodiversity in the Omani waters. “The project also aims to set and resolve the classification status of marine fish species available in waters surrounding Oman and obtain detailed knowledge about their temporal and spatial distribution,” said Dr Lubna al Kharusi, director, Marine sciences and Fisheries Centre.
Run by project manager Juma M al Mamry and the principle investigator Laith A Jawad, the research project sets out to overhaul the available data. The move comes as Food and Agriculture Organisation's Species Identification Sheets for Fisheries for the region are out-dated and are in dire need of revision. “Some of the species are even new to the world. We will soon publish our findings in an international marine journal,” said Dr Lubna.
Previous survey by Al Abdassalam (1995) lists only 260 species from 92 families, out of a total of more than 1,000 species in over 200 families known to be available in the Omani waters. On the other hand, Randall’s (1996) account of the fish of Oman is probably the most extensive systematic work till date in the sultanate, which, however, “is limited to coastal fish,” she said.
Detailed knowledge of fish distribution in the Omani waters is essential for stock assessment and environmental impact work in relation to habitat modifications. “Without baseline information on the composition of original fish faunas, followed by periodic monitoring, humankind will inevitably continue to face the permanent loss of extraordinary valuable and intriguing components of fish diversity,” she added.
The director said that there is a need for comprehensive work to cover all the known marine organisms in the Omani waters, include new species and to correct the classification of those misidentified. This information could then be used for better management of fish stocks, and perhaps increase the exploitation of certain fishes depending on seasonal abundance.