Bahraini shrimp have returned to markets across the country after the kingdom's annual ban on shrimp fishing ended on July 15th.
The four-month ban -- enacted to allow shrimp populations to re-produce -- is the shortest in the Arabian Gulf. Similar bans last for six months in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
However, officials and fishermen told Al-Shorfa that shrimp prices are expected to rise in the next 30 days as demand increases throughout Ramadan.
The end of the ban comes as fishing authorities are voicing concerns over the depletion of Bahrain's shrimp reserves.
Jassim al-Qasir, director general of the department of fisheries wealth at the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife, said the reserves have eroded for a number of reasons.
He said that overfishing and climate change, which creates life-cycle irregularities in small fish, as well as double the number of fishing boats, have led to "dwindling fish stocks [that in turn] lead to extinction and depletion of fishing grounds in the kingdom".
Al-Qasir also said he was concerned that the ban's duration is not long enough to allow eggs to hatch and shrimp farming to continue.
Abdul Karim Radhi, head of statistical analysis at the Commission, said Bahrain's seasonal production of shrimp currently ranges between 1,500 to 3,000 tons.
Successful production depends on several factors, including increases [in the number of] fishing vessels and fisherman, as well as the fishing methods used, he said.
Radhi said the peak of such activity should involve 100 to 110 dhows, or fishing boats, and there are serious efforts to bring these numbers down to a safer level of 94 dhows.
However, there are currently 350 dhows and fishing boats in Bahraini waters and the kingdom has reached the maximum approved levels of fishing and shrimp harvesting, which has dangerous ramifications for reserves, he added.
Radhi urged fishermen to use legal and licensed fishing methods available to avoid destroying the shrimp stocks.
Bahraini shrimp fisherman Abdul Sahib Issa said that the idea of extending the ban from four months to six months, as is the case in other Gulf countries, has more negative aspects than positive ones.
Increasing the ban could result in large shrimp swarms migrating from Bahraini waters -- where fishing nets are laid -- to areas further away, he said.
At the same time, it is important to impose a ban to preserve fish stocks and marine life in Bahraini waters, Issa said.
Shrimp is amply available in different sizes, he said, adding that each dhow supplies 200 kilogrammes of shrimp once they have completed their growth cycle.
One kilogramme of jumbo-sized shrimp currently costs two Bahraini dinars ($5.30), he said, while a kilogramme of medium-sized shrimp costs one and a half dinars ($4) and a kilogramme of small shrimp costs one dinar ($2.65).
Due to the holy month of Ramadan and because it is the first month after the ban was lifted, prices will increase, he said. He added that he expects Muslims will want to break their fast with shrimp after its long absence from the market.
Bahraini homemaker Noura Abdullah said she depends on shrimp during the holy month of Ramadan, as it comes second only to red meat and is the main fish dish on her family's table as they break their fast.
"We usually buy substantial amounts of shrimp when it is in season and we freeze it so it is available to us when the fishing ban is in place," she said.
"We use shrimp in lots of Bahraini dishes and we especially prefer it with rice and hot spices as with [the traditional] machboos, fried shrimp, shrimp salad and other dishes," Abdullah said.