This project examined the Al Wusta Fisheries company, examining the enablers and barriers to their development, in particular the use of Indian Ocean tuna resources. Al Wusta is currently planning on launching two new purse seiners into the Indian Ocean to fish for tuna and tuna-like species under the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) remit, but also further developing their freezer trawler fleet targeting coastal mackerel resources.

Within this work MRAG provided a synopsis of the structure of the Oman industrial fishing fleet, which is divided into two main fleets – one based solely within Oman Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters, which fishes mackerel resources using freezer trawlers, and the other which is based out of Victoria (Seychelles) and fishes the tuna and tuna-like species under the management remit of the IOTC.

The catches of the Oman industrial fleet registered on the IOTC Record of Authorised Vessels (RAV) were found to be dominated by tuna, with the majority of this catch yellowfin tuna along with small catches of bigeye tuna. Although bigeye tuna catches have changed yearly (mainly reduced), yellowfin tuna catches have shown little reduction between 2012 and 2020. Catches of yellowfin tuna were exceptionally high in 2012 and 2013, reducing to very low levels in 2014, but then levelling off to ~ 100 – 200 tonnes per year from 2015 to 2020.

A synopsis of the status of the three main tropical tuna stocks is provided. This finds that skipjack are likely not overfished (and not undergoing overfishing). However, both bigeye and yellowfin tuna stock have been classed as overfished, with overfishing occurring. Recent IOTC Resolutions to develop a total allowable catch for bigeye tuna (Resolution 22/03) and rebuild stocks by restricting catches of yellowfin tuna (Resolution 19/01 and Resolution 21/01) have been implemented by the IOTC. The introduction of such resolutions to reduce total catches and rebuild the spawning stock biomass of bigeye and yellowfin tuna may mean there is little scope to expand further effort in catching both species within the Indian Ocean.

The mackerel fishery undertaken by Al Wusta was examined and MRAG found that for both Indian mackerel and Atlantic horse mackerel Omani landings are relatively low (compared to the total reported catch within the Indian Ocean). However, for both species the lack of rigorous stock assessments reduces the likelihood that increases in targeted fishing effort are likely to be sustainable.

In supporting the development of Al Wusta fishing opportunities within the Indian Ocean, two main points are made. For offshore tuna and tuna-like fisheries, further discussions within the IOTC and with the G16 should be further undertaken to enhance opportunities to fish yellowfin tuna (and other tunas) and ensure allocation of such resources are available to Oman. For coastal mackerel fisheries, further development of the industry should focus on the postharvest processing, with on-shore facilities developed to add value to the landed output from the mackerel fishery, while rigorous stock assessments should be undertaken for both targeted mackerel species.

MRAGs assessment has shown that there are no red flags of Al Wusta’s current fishing activities. However, further development of these activities may be impacted by access to resources, both associated with the biomass of these resources (i.e. mackerel) or management restrictions (i.e. tuna).

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