No illegal foreign fishing trawlers in Omani waters, claims MoAF

Muscat - 

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MoAF) has stated that a video being circulated on social media of a fishing trawler dragging massive nets across the sea, purportedly in Omani waters, is misleading. The ministry said that “the ship isn’t Omani and seems to be outside the territorial boundaries of Oman”.

MoAF said that the Omani waters are free of any foreign trawlers after the Ministerial Decision No 20/2009 prevented bottom trawling in Oman. “The ministry monitors all ships that enter Omani waters in cooperation with the Maritime Security Centre, which continuously operates reconnaissance aircraft in coordination with the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) to monitor the Omani coasts,” stated the ministry.

The ministry has urged fishermen to contact it for any violations either via hotline 1999 of the Maritime Security Centre or on 24322999/91400430. In 2009, the ministry issued a decision, according to which bottom trawlers were given two years to move their operations out of the country. In June 2011, the decision came into effect and since then Oman has been strictly enforcing the rule to completely keep out such fishing fleet off its territorial waters According to H E Dr Hamed Said al Oufi, Undersecretary for Fisheries at MoAF, there are strict controls to prevent illegal fishing in Omani waters, especially for tuna.

“A RAFO aircraft will go out and spot these boats and send the navy out to check if they are illegal. We protect our waters of 200 nautical miles. If a foreign fleet is fishing in international waters, beyond a state’s coastal territory, that is allowed according to the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] and the Law of the Sea,” H E Oufi was quoted as saying by Omani research group Marine Ecosystem of Oman. H E Oufi added, “Nations with capacity can fish in international waters. But in the case of tuna, it would have to be recorded with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). In this scenario, boats have to be registered along with their capacity, and record their catch. They cannot fish illegally.”

Bottom trawls and other such fishing gear cause harm to fish and the marine environment, as they catch juvenile fish, damage the seabed and lead to overfishing. Since, bottom trawling involves towing heavy fishing gear over the seabed, it can cause large-scale destruction on the ocean bottom, including coral shattering, damage to habitats and removal of seaweed.

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