The real prize at any seafood restaurant in these parts is the wonderful Omani lobster. But it seems our spiny friend, Panulirus homarus, is going, if not the way of the dodo, at least the way of the poor hammour. Years of over fishing have taken their toll, with the weight of total catches in 2007 reported to have plummeted to just 22 percent of what was being hauled ashore in 1990.
However, Oman’s Ministry of Fisheries has been acting to save the depleted population in the hope of building a sustainable stock that can keep pace with the huge local and international demand for the crustacean. Measures include a ban on fishing for Panulirus during the breeding phases (from October to January and again during May and June) and a switch to lobster traps constructed from nylon or plant material which are less likely to catch juvenile lobsters. Fishermen are also being encouraged to release egg-bearing females that are caught.
So, while our favourite seafood can still be found on menus hereabouts we’ll be hoping our waiter can assure us that our bisque contains mature Omani lobster that was caught in-season.