Crabs, ecology and economy in Oman

This February 2019 video is about saving an Omani crab which had got caught in a fishing net.

From the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research:

Crabs are key to ecology and economy in Oman

Importance of crabs should be considered when looking at increasing human pressure on Barr Al Hikman nature reserve

October 8, 2020

The intertidal mudflats of Barr Al Hikman, a nature reserve at the south-east coast of the Sultanate Oman, are crucial nursery grounds for numerous crab species. In return, these crabs are a vital element of the ecology, as well as the regional economy, a new publication in the scientific journal Hydrobiologia shows. ‘These important functions of the crabs should be considered when looking at the increasing human pressure on this nature reserve’, first author and NIOZ-researcher Roeland Bom says.

Blue swimming crab

The mudflats of Barr Al Hikman are home to almost thirty crab species. For his research, Bom, together with colleagues in The Netherlands and at the Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, looked at the ecology of the two most abundant species. Bom: ‘Barr Al Hikman is also home to the blue swimming crab Portunus segnis. That is the species caught by local fishermen. This crab uses the mudflats of Barr Al Hikman as nursery grounds.’

The counts of Bom and his colleagues show, that there are millions and millions of these crabs in Barr Al Hikman. They are food to hundreds of thousands of birds, both migrating species, as well as birds breeding in the area, such as crab plovers. The crabs live in holes in the ground. They forage on the seagrass beds that are still abundant in Barr Al Hikman. ‘Apart from the high primary production (algae) in Barr al Hikman, this reserve is also well suited for crabs because of the vastness of the area’, Bom assumes. ‘The slopes of the mudflats are very gentle, so at low tide, the crabs have an immense area at their disposition.’

Eco value

The value of the crabs is not just ecological, Bom stresses. “Local fishermen that catch the blue swimming crabs, distribute them not only through Oman, but also through the rest of the Arabian Peninsula and even to Japan. At approximately € 2,- per kilo, these crabs represent an important economic pillar, both under the region around Barr Al Hikman, as well as for the whole of Oman.’


The protection of the reserve of Barr Al Hikman is limited to national legislation. Efforts to acknowledge this reserve under the international Ramsar-convention were never effectuated. There is, however, increasing human pressure on the mudflats of Barr Al Hikman, the authors describe, that would justify further protection. For example, there are well-developed plans to start shrimp farming around this intertidal area. ‘When looking at the cost and benefits of these activities, it is important to look at the role of this reserve in the local ecology, as well as in the broader ecology of the many migratory birds that use the area’, Bom says. ‘Moreover, our research shows that the unique ecosystem of Barr Al Hikman plays a key role in the economy as well.’

British government helps Oman absolute monarchy oppression

This 10 December 2017 video says about itself:

This video presents a short report on the most critical obstacles and challenges facing human rights activists in Oman.

By Phil Miller in Britain:

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Britain’s counter-terrorism training for Oman alarms exile

AN OMANI dissident in Britain voiced his concerns today over Whitehall delivering counter-terrorism training to the repressive Gulf regime.

Khalfan al-Badwawi is a human rights campaigner who fled Oman in 2013 after having been repeatedly detained by police.

He told the Morning Star: “After the Arab Spring, protest organisers like myself sought asylum in Britain.

“When we did this, our friends and family in Oman were questioned by local police for sending us money, which they said was support for terrorism.

The Sultan of Oman treats peaceful opponents of his regime as terrorists, so when the UK delivers counter-terrorism training there is a real risk it will be used to stifle dissidents.”

The sultan — Qaboos bin Said al Said — was installed on the throne by British troops almost half a century ago and has clung to power by suppressing left-wing revolutionaries.

In the latest sign of British support for the sultan, Whitehall is delivering a series of classes on counter-terrorism policing including a session on “crisis communications”.

The Cabinet Office’s emergency planning college (EPC) is also coaching Oman’s civil defence committee under a similar scheme.

The EPC, based in York and managed by Serco, has provided crisis management packages for the country’s state-owned national airline, ferries, civil defence and ambulance organisations.

The EPC works with other repressive Gulf regimes including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Its scheme in Oman involves Major General Michael Charlton-Weedy, a former army officer who is now director of “international resilience training” at the Cabinet Office.

He recently delivered a crisis management session in Oman that reviewed Britain’s response to the Manchester Arena and 7/7 suicide bombings.

The Cabinet Office, EPC and Metropolitan Police have been approached for comment.

British Conservative military help for Oman dictatorship

This November 2017 video says about itself:

Tanzanian workers in Oman and the UAE face domestic abuse

An investigation by Human Rights Watch shows how women who have come to Oman and the UAE from Tanzania are being abused. The domestic workers are having their passports confiscated, and are being confined within the house.

By Phil Miller in Britain:

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Williamson accused of fuelling repression in the Gulf after signing ‘defence’ agreement with Oman

GAVIN WILLIAMSON is being accused of fuelling “brutal repression” in the Gulf after he signed a “defence agreement” with Oman’s dictatorship.

The deal is believed to allow Britain’s Royal Navy to berth its new aircraft carrier at Duqm, Oman’s deep water port.

The Defence Secretary visited Oman yesterday to finalise the plan and said he was “delighted” to be there.

The country’s ruler Sultan Qaboos is the Middle East’s longest-serving autocrat, put on the throne by British troops in 1970.

Mr Williamson’s visit coincided with a joint Anglo-Omani military exercise in the country’s northernmost peninsula at Musandam.

The exercise, called Mountain Storm, took place near the Strait of Hormuz between Oman and Iran, through which much of the world’s oil is shipped.

Khalfan al-Badwawi, an Omani dissident who was tortured and imprisoned for “insulting the sultan”, slammed Mr Williamson’s trip.

Speaking from exile in London, he told the Morning Star: “Britain’s military is complicit in the brutal repression of people in the Gulf region.

“Parking the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier in Oman is a strategy designed to project Britain’s imperial power in the Gulf, where they are not welcome.”

British oil companies Shell and BP have major operations in Oman, and Mr Badwawi said the Royal Navy’s presence was aimed at “ensuring the profit flows straight to the City of London.”

He also criticised the cost of the new carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, which cost billions of pounds to build, at a time when “there are 14 million people in poverty in the UK.”

However, Mr Williamson said it was “a pleasure to sign this agreement [with Oman], bringing us even closer to one of our most important partners.”

The new ship was dogged by problems with its propeller shafts during sea trials.

Access to the Duqm port for repairs will make it easier for HMS Queen Elizabeth to sail on to the Pacific Ocean – an ambition Mr Williamson outlined last week.

This plan irritated China, which promptly cancelled a visit by the Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Mr Hammond rebuked his Cabinet colleague today in a BBC interview, saying that relations between London and Beijing were “complex” and “it hasn’t been made simpler by Chinese concerns about Royal Navy deployments in the South China Sea.”

Marine wildlife of Oman, video

This video says about itself:

29 June 2018

In their final day of diving, Jonathan and Cameraman Bill had a great experience at “Shark Island” and they recount their adventures in this final VLOG from Oman.

JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD is an Emmy Award-winning underwater science/adventure series featuring underwater cinematographer/naturalist Jonathan Bird.

Zebra sharks off Oman, video

This video says about itself:

2 March 2018

Jonathan and cameraman Bill travel to the Daymaniat Islands in Oman in search of zebra sharks (also called leopard sharks in some parts of the world). The diving in Oman is fabulous! They encounter huge schools of fish, cuttlefish, sea turtles and finally…the elusive zebra shark. All while diving in 110° F heat!

JONATHAN BIRD‘S BLUE WORLD is an Emmy Award-winning underwater science/adventure series featuring underwater cinematographer/naturalist Jonathan Bird.

This zebra shark demanded a belly rub from the diver cleaning its tank.

Owls of the Arabian Peninsula

This video from Oman says about itself:

18 June 2015

Saeed and I left Salalah at 7.15pm and headed to Wadi Darbat in the Dhofar Mountains, spotlighting for night-active animals and owls.

Half-way along the flat far bit of the wadi we heard a strange screeching call on the south side of the road. We could not identify it and went by foot to locate the origin.

It turned out to be an immature Arabian Spotted Eagle-owl, Bubo (africanus) milesi.

We left the bird in peace and it continued to call from the same area for another hour. No adults were seen or heard.

Hopefully Saeed made it back there the next night to record it; I was by then well on my way back to Dubai.

From BirdLife, with photos there:

Birds of the Arabian Night

By Faisal Hajwal, 16 Oct 2016

When the Sun begins to set on the Middle East, the majority of the region’s birdlife settle down to roost for the night. Yet for others, the day is just beginning. We are of course talking about owls – those nocturnal birds of prey that bewitch us with their secrets and unusual behaviours.

We are all surely all familiar with owls; this large and distinctive order of around 234 species spreads its wings across the world, and can be found on every continent except for Antarctica. Despite the existence of such an enormous number of species, the Arabian Peninsula is host to a relatively small number of owls that are considered either resident, transient or migrant.

Nonetheless, these charismatic birds have left their mark on the psyche of the region. In some Middle Eastern cultures, owls are often associated with death and ruin, and are said to represent the souls of those who have died unavenged. For this reason, owls are often considered bad luck in this part of the world, but this perception may be changing, particularly among the region’s farmers. Incredibly effective predators who are specially adapted for night hunting, owls offer great environmental services for humans, reducing the population growth of rodents and helping to maintain an ecological balance.

Because owls are generally active at night, they have a highly developed hearing system and extraordinary night vision. The forward facing aspect of the eyes gives the owl its “wise” appearance, but also more practically gives it tremendous depth perception. Additionally, their eyes are very efficient at collecting and processing light, allowing it to hunt effectively in dark conditions. In addition to that, owls have specialized feathers that enable near-silent flight by altering air turbulence and absorbing noise.

Owl size and weight varies greatly among owl species, with the Great Grey Owl, which is considered the largest species of owl, weighing up to approximately 3 kg with a length reaching up to 76 cm. Other species are very small, with a length that does not exceed 14 cm and weigh 40 g. Although the Arabian Peninsula isn’t typically considered an owl hotspot, these stunning images show that the few species that do make the region their home perfectly illustrate the variety and charisma of this iconic bird family.

Pharaoh Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus)

This striking species, with its eyes as orange as the richest sand dune, is found across most of the Peninsula and in particular the east coast. Also known as the Eagle or Pharaonic Owl, it is the largest species in the area. Its size is about 68 cm, with a wingspan reaching up to 147 cm. It lives in desert environments and use rocky formations cavities as a nest.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Resident throughout the year and considered the most common species in the region. It is medium-sized with a length reaching 35 cm, and 89 cm wing span. It is easily distinguishable from the rest of other species, with its heart-shaped face and piercing black eyes. True to its name, it likes to nests in abandoned buildings, especially ceilings and concrete gaps. …

Pallid Scops Owl (Otus brucei)

A rare resident, known in Arabic as the Striped Trees Owl. Small, with a length not exceeding 20 cm and 50 cm wing span. It is a resident to the eastern regions of the Peninsula; however, it is not common. It nests in tree holes, often in arid foothills and rocky gorges, but can be found in urban gardens, too. According to our research there is no certain record for its breeding time. In winter, it migrates to the north-western regions of the Indian subcontinent.

Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops)

A migrant that is resident in several countries and regions such as northern India, northern Iran, Turkey and the Mediterranean basin. It migrates in winter to Africa, its route running across the peninsula. It is significantly exposed to hunting during the season of migration.

Little Owl (Athene noctua)

Uncommon resident, also known as the small owl or the ringed owl. It reaches 22 cm in length and is often seen in the daytime. Marked by rows of sand colour and a rounded head. It is recorded breeding in most of the Gulf States. It is a widespread species, with a range that spreads from the UK to Eastern China, but the subspecies Athene noctua lilith, which is a softer sandy colour, is found only in this region.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

A rare winter visitor, also known as the Short-Eared owl or the Deaf Owl. Length may reach up to 38 cm. It has been recorded in most of the Gulf States but in low numbers. It prefers open, marshy countryside, where it is active both day and night, flying a few feet above ground and often hovering over prey before pouncing.

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)

Its size is similar to its shorter-eared cousin, with a length that reaches up 36 cm. This agile predator prefers to roost in woodland, stretching its wings and body to disguise itself as a tree branch. Its migration route does not pass the Arabian Peninsula region, with very few observations in some Gulf countries, such as Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Mark Thatcher’s deals with Oman’s absolute monarchy still secret

This video from Britain says about itself:

20 July 2016

Files on Mark Thatcher’s dealings in Oman to remain secret for now.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Still in dark over Mark Thatcher’s deals

Thursday 21st July 2016

DOWNING STREET files relating to the controversial business dealings of Mark Thatcher will remain closed to the public for years to come, it has emerged.

Under legislation relating to public records, official files should be released to the National Archives at Kew after 30 years unless there are specific reasons for them not to be disclosed.

But the latest release of files to the archives includes two files entitled Cementation Contract: Mark Thatcher and the Omanis that cover the period from 1981 to 1988 which are listed as being retained for 65 years, meaning they will not be released until 2053.

Two other files — one entitled Mark Thatcher and the Omanis; Other Allegations against Mark Thatcher and the other Request by Electronic Data Systems to Employ Mark Thatcher — have been marked “temporarily retained” with no date for release.

The Cementation contract refers to a deal by Cementation International — a subsidiary of the Trafalgar House property, construction and engineering conglomerate for which Mr Thatcher was working as a consultant — to build a new university in Oman.

When details emerged in the press in 1984, it led to allegations that his mother, the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, had used her influence with the pro-British Sultan Qaboos of Oman to secure the contract for her son’s firm.

In the ensuing furore Mr Thatcher moved to the US. The Cabinet Office said a “small number” of records had been held back because they contained “personal data about individuals and sensitive information relating to other countries.”

Sir Mark Thatcher is refused a US visa over criminal record: here.

Jail for peaceful dissent in Oman sultanate

Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said

From Middle East Eye:

HRW: Oman should stop criminalising peaceful dissidents

Two activists, including a former parliamentarian, were sentenced to prison this month for their social media publications

Sunday 21 February 2016 11:47 UTC

Human Rights Watch on Sunday condemned Oman for sentencing two activists to prison for their social media posts.

The latest case saw a court in the southwestern city of Salalah on 17 February sentence artist and researcher Sayyid Abdullah al-Daruri to three months in prison for a Facebook post in which he stressed his affiliation to the Dhofar region. Dhofar is Oman’s largest governorate known for its strong cultural and linguistic heritage, as well as a large scale rebellion in the 1960s and 1970s.

“If all of the people from Dhofar chanted in one voice ‘We are Omanis’ then I will stand on the opposite side and say with all my unshakeable belief – ‘and I am a Dhofari and I will never be Omani until the day I die’,” Daruri wrote.

A week earlier, Hassan al-Basham, a former diplomat and parliamentarian, was sentenced on 8 February by a court in Sohar, northern Oman, to three years in prison for insulting God and the country’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, in a series of Facebook and Twitter posts.

Omani authorities should stop prosecuting people for peacefully expressing their beliefs and make sure that there’s space for peaceful dissent,” said Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy director in the Middle East.

Arrests of activists has increased since the 2011 popular protests in the country, where dissidents are prosecuted on charges such as “insulting the Sultan” and “undermining the prestige of the state”.

The government has also been able to curtail online criticism by relying on article 61 of the 2002 Telecommunications Act, which punishes “any person who sends, by means of telecommunications system, a message that violates public order or public morals”.

“Courts are basically criminalising peaceful dissent in Oman,” Stork said. “The Oman authorities should immediately release activists who are imprisoned solely for exercising their basic rights.”

Files on Mark Thatcher‘s dealings in Oman to remain secret for now. Documents on Profumo affair and royal family among other records withheld by No 10 from latest National Archive release: here.

Britain: Foreign Office refuses to release details of an SAS training exercise with Oman’s oppressive regime. Omani exile Khalfan al-Badwawi, who was tortured by his government, has lodged a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office: here.

Migratory birds in Oman counted

This video from Israel shows a crab plover and an oystercatcher.

Recently, birders counted waders in Barr al Hikman wetland in Oman.

They counted over 544,000 birds.

The most common species of the Barr al Hikman count, according to a Dutch Vroege Vogels radio interview this morning, was the lesser sand plover: 80,000 individuals.

The second species in numbers was the dunlin.

Third was the bar-tailed godwit.

There were crab plovers, Terek sandpipers, and other species, as well.

Barr al Hikman is a beautiful wetland, attractive for birds. However, it is threatened by ‘developers’. On the other hand, there are plans to protect Barr al Hikman by making it a Ramsar Convention area.

Rare Asian desert warbler on Terschelling island

This video is called Asian desert warbler, Nafoon, Oman 29/12/2011.

Today, there is a rare Asian desert warbler, on Terschelling in the Netherlands, near the marina in the west of the island. It is the third time ever that an individual of this species has visited the Netherlands.

This bird attracted many bird lovers.

Asian desert warbler Terschelling

Some of them photographed it.