The decision (No 25/2019) was issued by H E Dr Fuad bin Jaafar bin Mohammed al Sajwani, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries on February 3.
A similar decision was issued by the ministry last year (No 2018/69) on March 19, prohibiting fishing, possession and circulation of sea cucumbers for a year.
According to Article 1 of the decision (No 25/2019), fishing of sea cucumbers in all Omani fishing waters is banned from March 27, 2019 for two years. Any type of handling of the sea cucumber is prohibited, whether by sale, purchase, transportation, storage or export during the embargo.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, an official source in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries said, “The temporary ban has been issued for several reasons such as to know the number of sea cucumbers found in the sultanate waters, their fall in numbers and the increasing global demand. They help preserve the marine environment.”
The primary species harvested in Oman is the sandfish, Holothuria scabra (feik albahar in local language meaning sea jaw).
According to a study by Khalfan al Rashdi and Michel Claereboudt, over 21 holothurian species have been recently recorded in the shallow waters of Oman. Of these only Holothuria scabra is exploited commercially and has a value of about RO1.5 per individual. The marine species is limited to the western side of Masirah Island and Mahout Bay which is characterised by large, shallow seagrass beds with fine sand in sheltered flats and lagoons. The first official records of the exploitation of Holothuria scabra in Oman was reported around ten years ago.
“Unfortunately, this exploited stock followed the same rapid decline as most exploited population of this sea cucumber elsewhere. Overfishing evidences include a rapid decrease in population density which has been critically reduced to less than one individual per hectare as reported not only in Oman, but in many parts of the world,” reported the researchers.