Fishing in the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia
Red Sea Fishing
I have never been a fishing enthusiast and even when I tried fishing, I was never lucky enough to bring in any good catch. When I was working in Al Lith, Saudi Arabia, our workplace was by the Red Sea and the only decent thing to do on weekends was to go swimming, diving or fishing in the Red Sea. We could drive to the interesting mountain resorts such as Abha and enjoy the mild weather but this took too long.
UPDATE: Tourist Visa to Saudi Arabia
For the first time in history, the Saudi Government is opening up the country to the ordinary tourist. Effective 28th September 2019, you can apply for a tourist visa online, so you can now travel to the country and try Red Sea fishing.
Some of my staff were from the Philippines and some were fishermen before. Their talent at fishing with a homemade 'spear gun' is amazing. They did the fishing and we were there only to enjoy the catch!
Red Sea Fish Is Tasty
Fish from the Red Sea is by far the best that I have tasted. The high salinity level of the Red Sea is the reason why Red Sea fish taste so good.
The Red Sea, Surrounded by Six Countries
The Red Sea Is Special
What is so special about the Red Sea?
To start with, it has over 1,240 miles (2,000 km) of coral reefs, more than 5,000 years old, that provide shelter and food to over 1,200 species of fish. 10% of these species cannot be found in any other pars of the world.
Another reason why the Red Sea is special is its high salinity level of about 40 parts per thousand. This is higher than the world average of 35 parts per thousand by about 14%, and is due to the following:
- The countries that border the Red Sea are mainly desert countries (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti) that get less rain than other parts of the world and produce no significant rivers that run into the sea.
- These desert countries also experience extremely hot weather that results in a high evaporation rate.
- The geographical shape of the sea restricts access to neighboring seas (the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea) with lower salinity levels.
This high salinity level makes snorkeling difficult, as every time you dive in, the sea pushes you back to the surface. The only way to stay below the surface is to hang onto the coral reefs or wear something heavy.
Preparing Red Sea Fish
It usually takes about an hour for this group to catch the fish with their homemade spearguns. This part of the Red Sea is not highly populated so it's always a good catch, enough for our group of 20 hungry people.
We have three people busy fishing and the other seventeen waiting eagerly for the catch. Once the fish is brought ashore, it will be cleaned and then some will be barbecued and some made into sushi. For this chore, the fishermen will take a break and the rest of us will cook!
No seasoning is required for the barbecue, as the fish is already tasty on its own. Not even salt or pepper.
Colorful Red Sea Fish
One of the things that I observed about these fishes are their colors. They are so colorful. My favorite fish happens to be called parrot-fish. It gets its name from its teeth that are bonded into a powerful parrot-like beak. This brightly colored fish is a hermaphrodite and apparently lives in harems with a strong and dominant male parrot-fish. Talk about life!
Do you know why some fish are more colorful than others? It seems that in their fight for mates, the most colorful and brightly colored fish will win the fight. They will also change their color to indicate their readiness and willingness to mate.
Some will use colors to camouflage while others will use colors as a form of communication. Generally, coral fishes are more colorful than open-sea fishes.
Red Sea Fish Species
The Red Sea is home to several types of fish including some dangerous varieties. Some of the aggressive and poisonous fishes found in the area where we swim and fish are as follows.
There are more than 320 species of sharks in the Red Sea. The aggressive and voracious predators are the Tiger Sharks, Hammer Sharks, and Grey Reef Sharks. Grey Reef Sharks were sighted in several places near our coastline. The place where we swam and fished is protected by several miles of reefs and shallow water that prevent the sharks from entering.
Other fish with a reputation for being aggressive are the moray eels and surgeonfish.
Despite their look, moray eels are actually shy creatures and will only attack in self-defense. This usually happens if you disrupt their burrow. They also have poor vision, hence will rely mainly on their sense of smell. If you attempt to hand-feed moray eels, you might end up losing your finger as they might have difficulty distinguishing the food from your finger.
Pufferfish and Boxfish are some of the poisonous fishes found in this area. My Filipino staff beg to differ on this matter. To them, pufferfish if properly prepared is edible and is one of their favorite fishes.
Moray Eels and Pufferfish
I have never tried Moray eel before. In fact, the sight of the creature already put me off. It also reminds me of the evil eel characters, Flotsam and Jetsam, in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'.
Although Moray eel looks more like a snake, it actually is a fish. It looks ferocious and you would never think it can taste great!
My Filipino staff were more adventurous when it comes to food. Eating moray is a common thing to them and I was not sure if I should try. After seeing them eating the moray, I gave it a go and enjoyed it!.
They also convinced me that eating pufferfish's liver is OK and I will not die from eating it. I tried it and my God, it was fantastic!
Even my English friend, whose taste buds for these 'exotic foods' take lots of convincing, totally agreed with me.
Later, I did some research and found out that the liver is the tastiest and the best part of the fish. It is also the most poisonous if not properly prepared. This dish is popular in Japan, but in 1984, serving pufferfish liver was banned, as a precautionary measure.
How the Red Sea Got its Name
You probably wonder how the Red Sea got its name and whether the sea is red in color.
Well, the sea is a beautiful blue and not red color. Sometimes, it does appear red. This is due to the seasonal blooms of the marine plant, Trichodesmium erythraeum, which produces red blossoms. That's probably how it got its name.
Saudi Arabia's Fishing Industry
The relatively good weather, warm climate, diversity of fish species and calmness of the Red Sea make fishing an active sport and industry all year round. This is happening in countries such as Egypt but not in Saudi Arabia.
Despite having 4,703 miles (7,570 km) of coastline and an abundance of fish in its coastal water, Saudi Arabia's fishing industry is still underdeveloped.
This will all change as the Saudi government recently signed a technical assistance agreement with FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This 5-year program from 2012 to 2016 will cover several sectors including the fishing industry and will benefit the fishermen who are currently working on a small scale.
Protect the Red Sea
As mentioned earlier, all the countries that border the Red Sea are desert countries. With little rain and freshwater sources these countries, including Saudi Arabia, rely on the seawater as a source of water for daily use. Hence, the production of desalinated water for water consumption. As demands increases, more desalination plants are built.
Unfortunately, the desalination process produces warm brine as well as treatment chemicals that are then discharged back to the sea. Over time, these will have a nasty effect on the reefs, corals and other marine life.
The authorities should monitor these issues and take immediate actions in order to protect not just the marine life but also its infant fishing industry.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2012 Mazlan