Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, a coral reef expert from the Marine Conservation Society and the expedition’s chief scientist, said, “Our surveys took place during a particularly rich plankton bloom, so visibility in water was quite low. Many sites hosted large numbers of snapper, way in excess of 1,000 per kilometre square, which is encouraging. But the average size of the snapper is quite low, which indicates overfishing.”
Dr Solandt added that the large numbers of Diadema urchins continue to be a threat to the corals, because they are overgrazing the bedrock and base of some corals. Dr Matthias Hammer, the founder and executive director of Biosphere Expeditions, who led the expedition said, “We are now at a crucial stage of development in Musandam. The discussions we had with fishermen are encouraging. They have been told about and are respecting the Khor Hablain ‘closed area’, declared in 2013, where only line fishing is now permitted. However, Kumzari fishermen are concerned over illegal fishing from Iranian waters and believe this has resulted in significant catch declines in the past decade. We therefore encourage the Oman government to heed the fishermen’s concern and also continue its marine conservation efforts by putting marine conservation high on the agenda.”
Dr Solandt said the expedition has been encouraged by the large number of snappers, “We believe that more small no-take zones will help local fishermen and their communities in future. We encourage the government to discuss further measures with them in order to recover fish stocks.”
In another development, three more Omanis, Jenan al Asfoor from Muscat, as well as Ali Saleh Ibrahim and Waleed al Kaabi, (both from Sohar) were trained on the expedition in reef survey techniques as part of Biosphere Expeditions’ on-going placement and local empowerment programme. All three qualified as Reef Check EcoDivers during the expedition and can now conduct reef surveys anywhere in the Indo-Pacific, including in Oman.