(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MoAF) has changed the fishing season of abalone. Fishing of the shellfish, which has the highest yield per kg among all Omani fishery products, has been reduced to ten days “ from December 21 to 31
The ministry last year had restricted the fishing period to 20 days, from November 5 to 24, while in 2011 it was open for 25 days, from October 20 to November 15. The continuous change in the strategy has come due to depleting resources and overexploitation.
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. But stocks plunged in 2012 and the harvest was about 54 tonnes, dropping more than 63 per cent since 2011.
Ministerial Decision 369/2013, issued on November 26 states that 'it shall be prohibited to fish and collect abalone between January 1 and December 21 of every year. And the ministry will determine number of licences issued annually for fishing abalone in light of exploitable quantities, ensuring sustainability of the stocks.'
Ahmed al Mazroui, director general, fisheries resources development, MoAF, said the ministry wanted the moratorium for five years but, due to pressure from the fishing community, the ban was reduced to three years. ''The current change in fishing period suits prevailing conditions as it is expected that eggs have already been laid and catching abalone won't affect future stocks. The drop in harvest was a real concern, and that is why the current season has been limited to ten days only. It will reduce impact of fishing and bolster sustainable resource development,'' he said.
When asked if the curtailed season will continue next year and beyond, Mazroui said it is a sensitive issue. ''It is subject to scientific studies, stocks and behaviour of fishermen. If the fishing community understands the issue, it will be easier for all of us. We need to maintain resources for this generation and the ones to come.''
The new ministerial decision also issues guidelines for those seeking licences to dive for abalone fishing. It states that a person should not have been convicted of violating fishing laws in the last two years from the date of submitting the application.
It further states that a bank guarantee of RO5,000 valid for six months, starting from the beginning of the fishing season, shall be submitted and it shall be refunded one month after the end of the fishing season.
It also stipulates that a record of fish catch and other information required by the competent authority shall be submitted within a period no later than 15 days from the date of the end of the fishing season and that the authority may hold back 50 per cent of the bank guarantee if the record along with other required information is not submitted on time