What has Belgium, my country, in common with Oman? Both countries share a beautiful coastline on their territories. In both countries, fishermen share traditional craftmanship with knowledge of nature.
This month the 500 year old Belgian tradition of shrimp fishing on horseback has been put on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. In Oman, after oil, fish is still the number one earner of foreign currency. Traditional fishing is promoted and now close to 90% of the production come from the artisanal Omani sources.
In former years the sight of fishermen riding on draught horses was commonplace along the shores of Belgium, the Netherlands, north-eastern France and eastern England. Today only twelve households in Oostduinkerke, one of the most charming beaches on the Belgian North Sea coast, 10 kilometres from the French border, are active in shrimp fishing. Shrimp fishing on horseback is a form of traditional craftmanship closely connected with nature: good knowledge of the sea, the sand strip and a high level of trust and respect for the horse are essential. The fishermen fish in the sea with horse and net a couple of times a week, except in the winter months. The fishing process takes three hours, an hour and a half before low tide until an hour and half afterwards.
The association d’Oostduinkerke paardenvissers (NGO) and the NAVIGO-National Fisheries Museum tries to safeguard the history and knowledge of the craft of horseback fishing and to attract enthusiastic young practitioners. The city council developed a municipal Structural Spatial Plan which takes natural assets and sustainable tourism into consideration. The shrimp fishing on horseback in Oostduinkerke is practiced on the beach and visible for the public.
The coast of Dhofar, in the south of Oman, is a haven for the fishing industries. Especially sardine fishing in Taqah in the east, is one of the most common occupations in this governorate. Sardines are caught in vast quantities during the season, then dried and used as animal fodder. Fishing has always been an essential part of the traditional Omani way of life. Sardines are fished with nets from the beach or with small boats. Fisheries in the Sultanate employ around 40.000 Omanis. The country tries to ensure the sustainable future for the fish industry.