Expats can't work as fishermen: Ministry

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Expats can't work as fishermen: Ministry

Oman’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has turned down a proposition by the Majlis Al Shura to employ expats as fishermen because Omani fishing would suffer.

The proposal, which would have allowed owners of small vessels to create SMEs and bring in expats to work on their boats, was knocked back by Dr Hamad Al Aufi, Undersecretary of the Ministry, who presented the Ministry’s official stance, that the proposition “is expected to have negative effects on the 48,000 Omani fishermen who are registered at the ministry, who have around 23,000 registered boats.”

The proposal was headed by Mohammed Al Junaibi, representative of Wilayat Al Jazer in Al Wusta, who explained to Times of Oman that there were sometimes cases of illegal fishing by expats in the area, and that his proposal was a way for the sector to become more organised to limit harmful practices.

“We wanted a direction shift from illegal fishing to more organised work,” he added. “Our proposal included allowing small trade boats with 2-3 people to be able to employ expats in a regulated manner.

“However,” he added, “We see the undersecretary as a representative of the government, and in that way the government has made its views clear. We will not be stubborn if the proposal does not pass at the council’s meeting, there are other options. It is possible to open cooperatives, and another option is to have more people registered as fishermen under Riyada.”

 

Regarding the Shura Council’s first proposal, Dr Hussain Al Muscati, Director of Development and Management of Fisheries Resources at the ministry, told Times of Oman, “The ministry’s position is clear on this: Trade (crafts) fishing is a red line that should not be crossed. This sector is to be completely Omanised and so I don’t see a foreseeable way for this to pass or gain approval.” According to him, there are other opportunities for expats to work in fishing outside of this specific sector.

“If someone wants to hire expats, they can do so on larger coastal vessels, where there is a 30 per cent Omanisation rate. But they should not be able to do that with small boats. It goes against the Sultanate’s strategy and is terrible for fishermen, as well as the environment.”

The Ministry’s disapproval of allowing expats to become trade fishermen arises from the fact that when fishing laws are broken and the environment or economy is damaged, it tends to be illegal expat fishermen who are to blame, said Dr Al Muscati.

“Expat fishermen focus on profits and tend to have more harmful practices,” he added, “such as damaging nets and disposing of them in coastal areas and on beaches . Expat fishermen also tend to be the ones that fish off-season, which has devastating effects on the country’s supply. They are also more likely to use illegal practices, such as using nets to fish for lobsters.”

He also believed the proposal would affect the Sultanate’s reservoir of fish,

A fisherman told Times of Oman, “Fishing is considered a traditional and cultural profession that is passed on from generation to generation. Having expat employees is a danger, since they care more about profit than being sustainable or protecting the sea. They also discourage younger Omanis from fishing. For ages, Omanis have worked to sustain the wealth of the ocean for future generations, but since expat fishermen appeared we’ve begun to see destructive behaviour and careless and random fishing for the sake of a quick profit.”

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