Issued on 14 December 2014 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (“MOAF”), Ministerial Decision No. 312 of 2014 (“MD 312 of 2014”) was introduced to regulate the trade and control of fish markets in the Sultanate of Oman and is the focus of this article.
Control of the Fish Market
MD 312 of 2014 provides several mechanisms to control and regulate the market. Six of the mechanisms are highlighted below:
- The sale and trade of fish shall only be permitted at designated fish markets authorised by the MOAF.
- The trading of fish and its products shall only be done after authorisation is granted in the form of a licence from the administrative body entrusted with the management of fish market (the “Market Management”). The licence shall refer to the type of farmed fish, quality, place, and date of harvesting. Trading of imported fish shall also require a licence in accordance with this new regulation. Omani individuals and companies may acquire a licence for the aforementioned purposes after submitting an application to the MOAF. Within fifteen working days of submission, the Market Management shall review the licence application and refer it to the relevant bodies who shall decide upon the application within thirty days. The lapse of this period without reply shall mean approval of licence to the applicant. In case of rejection, the decision shall include reasons for the same in writing.
- Fish sellers, cutters, and workers at the fish market should acquire a medical certificate from the relevant authority to ensure that they are free of contagious diseases.
- The Market Observer, defined as a government employee having judicial capacity to seize, has been granted the power to inspect the fish markets and facilities, corporations and companies related to fish and its products, ice factories, means of transporting fish and equipment used in preparing fish and its products, to ensure they are all in compliance with the conditions of the new regulation. Further, fish and its products present in the fish market are subject to continuous inspection by the Competent Employee (as defined in the regulation). If an inspection reveals that the fish and its products are unfit for consumption, the owner will be notified. The owner will bear all expenses incurred by the Market Management for disposing the unfit fish and its products.
- The Market Management shall issue a destruction certificate if requested by the owner and after paying the relevant government fees in this regard. The Competent Employee, the veterinary or the Market Observer who seized the fish which is unfit for consumption shall sign the destruction certificate.
- Under the supervision of the Market Management, the auction establishment shall run fish marketing processes at the public auction. It shall also be responsible for organising the entry and unloading of shipments in accordance with the controls and instructions issued by the Market Management.
Obligation of Licencees
The licencees have a number of duties under MD 312 of 2014, some of which we have highlighted below:
- A licencee must keep records that show the source, types, quantities, receipt dates, and prices of purchase and sale of fish and its products.
- A licencee must also keep all the registers and documents required by Market Management for five years from the date of issuance.
- A licencee must also obtain a prior written approval from the MOAF when attempting to make amendments or additions to their establishments.
- A licencee attempting to have fishing boats/ships enter the fish market must register them with Market Management. In cases where the boat/ships are large and it is not possible to unload the entire quantity to the auction site, the auction establishment may present samples.
- A licencee retailing fish and fish products must display them in accordance with the system established by the Market Management. As to pricing, the relevant authority may determine the retail prices of fish and its products if there are conditions that lead to an unjustifiable rise in price.
Violations and Penalties
Obstruction of Market Observers or Competent Employees enforcing the provisions of these regulations and making any illegal changes or amendments to the licences, health certificates, or other documents are both violations under the new law.
The penalty for any violation is withdrawal of the licence by the relevant authority, either temporarily or permanently.
Although it is currently unclear to what extent the Market Management will impose its powers in order to regulate the fish market, it is evident from MD 312 of 2014 that licencees must cooperate fully with the Market Management by providing them with all relevant information when requested to do so. Further, the Market Management through the implementation of MD 312 of 2014 has the potential to promote free competition in fish trading and prevent the monopolisation of the market.