Abalone, Haliotis mariae. (Photo: www.mofw.gov.om)
Abalone catches soar since ban lift
Thursday, October 11, 2012, 03:40 (GMT + 9)
Abalone (Haliotis mariae) catches in Oman have jumped three-fold since harvesting resumed in 2011 after a ban that had been instituted in 2008 to protect the species from decades of illegal overfishing.
Alawi Salim Ali Al Hafidh, director-general of Fisheries, Salalah, noted that in 2007, right before the ban was established, abalone production was just 46 tonnes, while 2011 saw an output of 150 tonnes worth OMR 7.5 million (USD 19.4 million).
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is now preparing for abalone season set to commence in November.
Al Hafidh said there is a big demand for Omani abalone in South Asia. To support the marketing and export of the shellfish, the ministry has taken abalone traders to international exhibitions to help them showcase their products, Times of Oman reports.
"The ban has enhanced the stock to a certain level. Yet, most of the abalones are not of big size and it will take a few more years and effective implementation of the measures for abalones to attain a size that will fetch better price,” he said.
"This species is considered to be the most valuable export commodity and has the highest economic yield per kg among the seafood produced in Oman,” he added.
The Ministry introduced a strict monitoring programme during the ban to prevent poaching and several surveillance centres were established along the coast to enforce the regulation.
An earlier study on the assessment and management of the abalone stock investigated the status of abalone fishery in the southern region and found several causes for the dwindling abalone stock, mainly excessive fishing pressure, inappropriate management regimes, inadequate enforcement policies, natural recruitment failure and habitat loss.
Due to the huge demand from the East Asian market and the extraordinarily high price for this species, commercial abalone exploitation has steadily increased since the 1970s. The production level decreased in the 1980s and rose to 44 tonnes in 1990.
"Although the fishing season in 1991 was reduced from six months to two months and a minimum legal size (MLS) of 90 mm shell length (SL) was introduced to protect the resource, the production was around the same level, 42 tonnes, because of the increasing effort of the divers during the two months,” the study stated.
“Subsequently, although the price continued to increase, production started to decline and fluctuated to reach 39 tonnes in the 1997, valued at OMR 2.7 million (USD 6.99 million), but declining to 32 tonnes in 1998, and in the following year sharply to the lowest level in the fishery's history -” around 29 tonnes valued at only OMR 1.7 million (USD 4.4 million),” the study added.
Abalone accounts for six per cent of the whole fisheries sector’s income.
- Govt lifts ban on abalone fishing
By Natalia Real