Fishing of shellfish, which has the highest yield per kilogram among all Omani marine products, was restricted to 12 days in 2016, while it was banned in 2015. Before that in 2013, fishermen had a self-imposed ban on harvesting, while the ministry had put a moratorium on fishing for three years from 2008 to 2010.
In a Ministerial Decision, the ministry stated that it is banning hunting of abalone during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The decision is based on Royal Decree 81/53 related to the Law on the Protection of Marine Fishing and Living Aquatic Resources.
The decision further states that possession, trading and transport of abalone is prohibited as well. The continued pressure on abalone fishing led to 78.9 per cent fall in revenue when compared to the catch in 2011 (RO8.24mn) and 2014 (RO1.73mn), while the quantity of catch fell by 66 per cent in the same period.
Revenue earned for the catch per kilogram also came down from RO55.35 in 2011 to RO43.98 in 2012 and RO34.66 in 2014. In 2013, the ministry had reduced the fishing period to ten days from December 21 to 31 while it was 20 days in 2012 (November 5 to 24). In 2011, the fishing was open for 25 days, from October 20 to November 15. The continuous change in the strategy has come due to depleting stocks and exploitation.
A bumper harvest of 149 tonnes was witnessed in 2011, when fishing of abalone was reopened after a moratorium of three years on harvest, sale and export came to an end in 2010. However, stocks plunged in 2012 and the harvest was about 54 tonnes, dropping more than 63 per cent since 2011. The total production was 50 tonnes in 2014, while there was a self proposed ban by divers in 2013. In 2016, the production was 55 tonnes.
Found in abundance off the coast of Dhofar, mostly in Mirbat and Sadah, abalone sells for as much as RO60 per kilogram when dried and exported.
The Omani abalone (Haliotis mariae), found only in the sultanate’s waters, is also one of the fastest growing abalone species in aquaculture.