The Omani coastline is one of the most rugged and diverse in terms of landscape. From long sandy beaches to rugged treacherous cliff faces it is a fisherman’s paradise. Since starting our fishing business here we have been looking at ways in which we can aid in the protection of these fisheries.
Our first project has just got underway in the form of a Permit Tagging program with the help and advise of The Bone Fish and Tarpon Trust (BTT). Our aim is to gather data that can be used to protect the Indo Pacific permit population we have here in Oman and their habitats. Tagging programs around the world have been shown to produce some fascinating data. I know there are mixed reviews on the whole subject and pros and cons to any fish tagging program. After extensive research and many conversations with other programs around the world we have put together a program that will benefit the Indo Pacific species of permit here and aid in their protection.
So where do we start? Anything you wish to protect must have a monetary ‘Value’, this sounds very crude to be putting a price onto the head of each of these beautiful and delicate permit but bear with me. A permit has a value of 2 Rials per kilo (about $5/kg) when sold at the local fish market. So how do we increase this value to make them worth more alive and swimming than dead and on our plates? We will be recording each of our clients/visitors ‘spend’ whilst visiting Oman. From internal travel, hotel stay, food, tourist activities and the purchase of any local keepsakes etc. We can then add this together and divide it by the number of permit we catch and tag, this will give us the ‘Value’ of each permit.
The next important criterior is data on the fish themselves that we can use to get a picture of their habitat, growth rates, where do they travel to etc. We will be recording the unique tag number along with date, time and location of each fish caught and tagged, as well as measurement of length from nose to fork. The tags we will be using are small yellow plastic T bar designs to be inserted just behind their dorsal fin. Our telephone number, email address and most importantly the unique tag number is all printed onto each tag, making it easy for any recaptured fish to be identified and cross referenced to the details of their last capture.
Our long term goal is to build an overall picture of the Indo Pacific Permit in Oman, their population size, growth rates, feeding grounds and general movements along the coast. I say long term goal as statistically we will need to tag a large number of Permit to ensure our recapture rate becomes significant enough to gain a large amount of data in order to produce accurate statistics on the above mentioned criterior.
We have already and will continue to speak to the local fishermen in each area explaining what the tagging program is, why we are doing it and what to do if they recapture tagged fish. If these permit are caught by them in nets or on hand lines we want to record this data too. This will help not only with movement patterns and growth rates but also the number of fish being killed for food.
How do we gain the support of the local communities? Once we work out the ‘Value’ of each permit we can use the same data to show how much these fish are worth to the local community. We can show them that the greater number of visiting fishermen and their families we have visiting these areas staying in hotels, purchasing local goods and services, the more money there is coming to the region. The demand from the hotels for local produce increases in order for them to feed their guests (this includes other more sustainable fish species such as Tuna), and an increase in tourism brings more income to the community as a whole. If we can show this increase then the Indo Pacific permits ‘Value’ to the local community will go from a 2 Rial per kilo dinner option to something that is worth much more alive and swimming. This will hopefully lead to the protection, not only of the permit themselves but also their habitat and the beaches that they are found on.
We hope, in time, that this program will bring many exciting changes to an already beautiful region in Oman and help to protect the unique fishing grounds, beaches and above all the outstandingly special Indo Pacific permit population that we are so lucky to be able to enjoy here.