Mirbat: Abalone is a sea snail that feeds on algae and seaweed. Other names for abalone are ear shells, sea ears, and muttonfish, as well as mutton shells in Australia, Ormer in Britain, Perlemoen in South Africa, and PÄ ua in New Zealand.
Abalone lives while attached to bottom surfaces of rocks and inside oval shells with rough surfaces on the outside. It is a night creature, active at night and less active during the day, when it hides in burrows and rock crevices to avoid predators.
Abalone tops the list of delicacies on luxurious tables. It belongs to the mollusc category.
All types of abalone belong to one species, called Halitosis, meaning sea ear in Latin. The scientific name of the abalone off the Sultanate’s waters is Halitosis Maria,” a type that is unique to the Sultanate.
Abalone meat is characterised by abundant protein, as well as a combination of vitamins and minerals. It is rich with selenium and magnesium, as well as minerals necessary for the construction of the body, such as calcium, iron, potassium and zinc, in addition to vitamin B12 and vitamin E.
The capture of abalone poses great importance, economically and socially, for citizens in the Governorate of Dhofar.
Abalone is also a source of income for many families. The price of one kilo of abalone ranges between OMR30 to OMR70.
Rare marine creature
Abalone is a rare marine creature that is found only in Omani waters. Its season is one of the most important fishing periods in the Governorate of Dhofar.
Its presence is confined to beaches between the Wilayat of Mirbat and the Niyabat of Sharbathat in the Wilayat of Shleem and Al Halaniyat Islands, in addition to a small trap in the Niyabat of Souqrah in the Governorate of Al Wusta. There are also other types of abalone in China, Japan, South Africa, Canada, America and Australia.
Divers prepare themselves before the season by running to strengthen the ability of the respiratory system and to open up the lungs. They also practice swimming to strengthen the heart muscle and increase the efficiency of the circulatory system.
Due to the increasing number of divers in past years, some harmful practices arose in fishing for Abalone, which endangered this important source of wealth.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is making great efforts to educate fishermen and divers on the importance of Abalone as a natural resource, as well as on the effects of over-fishing of Abalone and the impact on divers, society and the country, in general.
Arif bin Mohsen Al Yaf’ei, Director of the Fisheries Development Department in the Wilayat of Mirbat, said the ministry has enacted several legal and administrative controls to regulate and take advantage of this resource, such as determining the legal size to be sold, with a shell not less than 90 millimetres, setting a diving season, and the introduction of a system of licences for diving and selling of abalone that are renewed annually, not allowing the use of oxygen cylinders and diving equipment, regulating the use of floodlights underwater, and regulating the flipping of rocks.
The ministry annually determines the dates of the diving season for Abalone fishing.
He told Oman News Agency (ONA) that preparations are made before the start of the season by issuing licences for divers and traders. He pointed out that the number of renewed licences this year in Mirbat totalled about 1,300 along with three licences for processing abalone.
He added that during the season there is a supervisory team set to work to curb the excesses of divers, and another team to educate divers and instruct them on procedures for the season, in a bid to protect this natural wealth.