Marine Science & Fisheries Centre, Sidab, Oman

  “Sultanate”…”science”…spelng iz vary imbortent!!  The Marine Science & Fisheries Centre is located at the Marina, in the area of Sidab, between old Muscat and the Al Bustan Palace Hotel.  The centre includes a public aquarium, a sea turtle exhibit, administrative offices and a marine science library.  The centre is open from Saturday to Wednesday from 8am to 2pm, Thursday 8am-1pm and on Friday from 3-6pm.  “Oman’s greatest natural resource after its oil is its fisheries.  Thus, the primary focus of the centre is to study Oman’s fisheries and determine the best ways to go about using them.  While the primary intent of the aquarium is to allow you, the public, to view Oman’s beautiful marine life, staff scientists also use the facility to study living specimens in captivity.  As you read the individual labels over each tank, you will see several examples of this.”  Fahel works at the entrance desk of the centre.  No, he will not ask you for any money (as admission is free!) but he will insist that you sign the guest book!  🙂  There are glass displays with many types of shells and coral, but few people seem to pay them any attention and walk quickly past them to get to the aquarium.  They even have 4 different green turtle skulls on display.  I love this wall decoration as it reminds me of the early morning scenes at Muttrah fish souq.  There are about 200 species of Moray eels in tropical waters worldwide and a few species in temperate regions.  At least 12 species are found in Omani waters.  Most moray eels are found in around coral and rocky reefs where they spend most of their time hiding in holes and crevices waiting to lunge at passing prey.  They have these informative posters on the walls around the aquarium.  All the animals you see on display are from Omani waters and the majority are from the capital area.  The aquarium staff has thus far collected over 200 species of the fishes and dozens of different invertebrates.  These bizarre looking fish are known as sharksuckers or “remoras” (“Lazak” in Arabic).  About 4 species are found in Omani waters.  Members of this family have their first dorsal fin modified to form a powerful laminated sucking disc.  These fish use the disc to attach themselves to large marine animals or ships and in this way move from one feeding ground to the next without expending too much energy.  Some appear to prefer a particular type of host but most will attach to a variety of animals.  Among the hosts include sharks, rays, turtles, dolphins and large bony fishes.  Just after reading about the sharksuckers, we were able to see a real-life example in the next tank!  The lazy fish sticks itself to others to save energy.  I know people who are like that, ha!ha!  Here‘s a short video.  Marine turtles are cold-blooded reptiles and their distribution is restricted to the warmer areas of the world.  Oman is one of the very rare places in the world where turtled can be watched freely and calmly.  Turtle nesting attracts hundreds of visitors to Ras al Hadd each year to watch the site at close quarters.  It is believed that turtles live longer than any other backboned animal.  Turtles that live in the water have a flatter, more steamlined shell than turtles that live on land.  Sea turtles cannot withdraw into their shell and so they depend on their size and speeding speed for defence.  They have large flattened limbs or flippers, which they beat while swimming.  They move clumsily on land but are excellent swimmers.  The fastest reptile in water is the Pacific Leatherback Turtle, which can swim at over 30 km/h.  The Green Turtle’s local names are “Sul Hafah Al Khuthera”, “Hamas” or “Shiree”.  This is a very common species in the Indian Ocean.  It is a very popular food in many parts of the world.  The use of its meat and eggs by humans has seriously endangered its survival.  Green Turtles feed on luxuriant seaweeds and other green plants.  They are found everywhere in Omani waters and travel further than other sea turtles.  They can be seen in the hundreds, even thousands over the larger feeding areas.  Lots of coral reef fishes at the aquarium  It can be very tricky trying to capture a good photo of the smaller fish at the aquarium as they move so fast!  Although they are on this poster, I did not see any sharks or stingrays in the aquarium at all.  I think the aquarium would be so much more popular and exciting if they put a few tanks of these monsters on display!  It was a pleasant experience visiting the marine centre.  If you love sealife and don’t have the time, money or inclination to get licensed as a scuba-diver while in Oman, why not visit the Marine Science & Fisheries Centre in Sidab?!  It certainly isn’t one of the best aquariums we’ve ever visited, but we feel it’s worth checking out.  (Tel: 24740061)


19 responses to “Marine Science & Fisheries Centre, Sidab, Oman

  1. why and where can i get these color fulll fish of oman and i want to sin for a lisen

  2. Hi there!
    Not sure if you are talking about signing up for a fishing license or a scuba-diving license. As far as I know, anyone can fish in Oman without a license.. Just get yourself a fishing rod from Carrefourre and you can have all the colorful fish you want! 🙂

  3. I was practically born inside that center..


  4. Hmm…were you born in a house nearby? Sounds like an interesting story as there are no hospitals in the immediate surroundings.

  5. Ken Hilderbrand

    I was one of a team of scientists from Oregon State University that opened the MSFC in 1986. For 3 years our job was to train research staff and stock the aquarium. This was an experience of a lifetime. I have thousands of photos of the Center and Oman in general. The team has since scattered across the country and I am retired. My research there on fish smoking was the start of what eventually resulted in the only fish smoking procedures manual ever published – at least in English. “Fish Smoking Procedures for Forced Convection Smokehouses”. Available free on the internet.

    • Ken,
      I have been trying to contact you through old OSU article addresses. I am looking for contacts for a Newport fish waste recycling project and would like to ask you a couple simple questions about who I should contact next. I have a lot of resorces for this and just need a strategic partner or two. Thanks, James Wynn

    • I worked with Wojciech Pelczarski and Ken Hilderbrand (who signed in above) in the center starting in 1986 (when the center building was first completed) until 1990. Even then, and since, the Omani scientists have done a great job working with Oman’s marine resources. In fact the Center would never have been built without the support of a number of Omani scientists, in particular Mohammed and Rashid Barwani who were early supporters of good management of Oman’s Marine resources. Mohammed Barwani was the first director of the center.

      Keep in mind that the aquarium is just a small portion of the center’s primarily scientific work, not a for profit commercial aquarium like you might find in other places. It is just something for the public to enjoy!

      I like your photos!

  6. Mr. Ken Hilderbrand,
    What an honor to have one of the original scientists who opened the MSFC post a comment here! Thanks for visiting and commenting! What I would give to sit down with you and go over those pics! I checked out your “Smoking Fish at Home Safely document” ( which could definitely come in handy for my brothers in Northern BC who have smokers and smoke fish on a regular basis! I understand that you are retired. Do you ever make it out to Oman? If you ever do, let me know. It would be wonderful to know more about your experiences here in the Sultanate! Thanks again for visiting & commenting. God bless!

  7. Hi,
    I was working with MSFC and US staff (Richard Dudley and others)during 1990 as a biologist in the FAO project on assessment of fishery resources in Omani waters. It was also my experience of a lifetime probably the same as Ken Hildebrand mentioned. Just recently I found the name of Omani people I know from MSFC, Lubna Al-Kharusi, who wrote an article on slender sunfish published by our Acta Ichthyologica et Piscatoria (2010)40 (2):105-108 (suprise!) . I have contact with Richard Dudley, presently retired but still busy scientist.

  8. Wojciech,
    Fascinating to hear from another person who has worked with MSFC! It seems that a lot of the groundbreaking work that was done in the MSFC was aided by ambitious scientists such as yourself, Richard Dudley and Ken Hildebrand, willing to help Oman with her fishery resources. Well done! Thanks for taking the time to comment. 🙂

  9. Andy,

    Good to see those familiar pictures and messages of those who are related to the MSFC in one way or another. I worked briefly at the MSFC in Feb. 2009 (as a reviewer to review their research program), and then again in July 2009 to have a stock assessment training workshop. Still keep in touch with a few scientists over there. They are making some good progress in improving research capacity in fisheries.

  10. Yong Chen,
    Thanks for stopping by! That is SO cool to learn how important this place in Sidab, Oma is for marine research! And thanks for leaving a link to “Chen Lab”! Fascinating stuff!

  11. wow! amazing!

  12. dawn kleinveldt

    I have recently spotted more than 5 very large crown of thrones star fish(Acanthaster planci) at the capital area yacht club. I am a bit concerned about their possible impact on the recovering coral in the area. Who does one notify about these things?

  13. wanted to visit this place last Saturaday but it is closed for maintenance/renovation 😦

    • Mala,
      That’s the first I’ve heard about them being closed for maintenance/renovation. I hope they don’t take ages like some of the forts that seem to close down for years for such work!

  14. Pingback: Marina Bandar Al Rowdha, Muscat | Andy in Oman

  15. Eng. Nutan Indulkar Ghag

    Wow reading all those comments, was very impressive and all the ppl from the research area replying to you is the great success of your blog. The way you wrote narration is also nice, entertaining. I am doing Masters in My Interior Designing and it happened that for my activity, “The walk” I need to select a route. this side is my very favorite, from wadi Kabir to sidab, to old muscat and out towards Lulu Darshat. I made a first time Pechakucha presentation for this Al Saidiya road. Making this presentation took me through lots of researching history, importance of the places which I put in my presentation. I wish I can put a link to show my small presentation about this beautiful road, which I love.
    Hence I was looking some more materials to refer for my further activity in detail and i came across this blog. I wouldn’t found your blog that time, it would have been more helpful. Its really unfortunate that we don’t find much interesting information on Oman’s places on internet.

    Thanks and regards


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