New Country "OMAN" opens up for the first time and begins USA Imports...THE TRUTH!

BRS
In an industry that is always looking over it's shoulder, its refreshing news when we hear about new locations opening up and beginning to supply livestock to an evolving trade. Even more exciting when it's a country that has never before exported to the ornamental aquarium trade and we start to see for the first time ever fish that have long evaded us all....not only that, but the coral reefs in Oman are some of the most rich and beautiful in all the world shelling out vibrant colors in their fish we only could have imagined possible.

I've decided to write this article myself, and share it with you all in a candid and transparent format. I don't have a background in journalism, photography or high-stakes quid pro quo tactics.....just a life long history of being around this wonderful hobby and business.

It was a few months ago, I first heard that there was a new butterfly buzzing around Hong Kong. A photo was sent to my by my brother Scott asking me if I knew anything about it....which I didn't. Not often does a fish get passed me, and this one was pretty unique and definitely spiked my interest. Further investigation, I reached out to my friend and colleague of over 30 years Barnett Shutman of RVS Fish World who quickly told me I was late to the game, and these fish had been flooding the market in Asia for months now. Barnett may have been exaggerating just a little...as not as many butterflies had actually been exported, but the race to get the fish on American soil was on.

Considering I am rather new to be back in the Livestock business after a 6 year hiatus, I wasn't too surprised I had been missing out.....but that wasn't the whole story. This butterfly in particular is not only rare, but endemic to mainly one location in the world...OMAN! This fish is rightfully called an Oman Butterfly (Chaetodon dialeucos), and I quickly found an article about the fish in reefs.com written back on Feb 17, 2018 by Richard Aspinall. Here's a link to that article https://reefs.com/chaetodon-dialeucos-oman-butterflyfish-wild/

Attached are a couple of photos of the first Oman butterfly imported into the USA on March 8th, 2022.
Oman BF 1 JPEG.jpg


OMAN BF 2 JPEG.jpg





A little more research on the world wide web and some social media, I found the new supplier in Oman and sent off my message hoping for a quick reply. Lucky for me, the owner of the company just happens to know a very dear customer of mine who lives in Abu Dhabi which is a neighboring Country to Oman. This friend of mine and long time customer, gave the Oman supplier the thumbs up to work with me and that I would be a good contact to help this new exporting company navigate through the Aquarium Industry. A relationship was formed, and I set out on a mission, determined to be the first one to ever import livestock from Oman!

I have to comment about what I knew about Oman up to this point. My friend Samer from Abu Dhabi has been around the aquarium industry for some time, and I have exported fish to him, and some of his friends in Dubai for many years. He and I instantly hit it off as not only business acquaintances, but the best of friends. Living in two completely different cultures and sides of the world, we had so much in common...not just the ocean. Horses, motorcycles, diving, spearfishing and so much more....this guy Samer is a true outdoorsman and he became a friend I would do anything for. Since Oman is just a short drive for him, his weekends often would be spent with his son and friends towing their boat over to Oman for a quick dive trip, spearing more fish that you could possibly need for one family. Ice chests full each day, the videos he would share with me of his excursions where nothing less than incredible. So having seen all these photos and videos of Oman reefs, I knew instantly that the treasures Oman has to offer would be worth while of the time and effort I was about to embark on.

My first call to confirm we could successfully and legally import into Los Angeles was to US Fish and Wildlife. The agent I got on the phone wasn't high ranking and quickly gave me the thumbs up, without really doing much research on his side. Although I had my first "yes", I wasn't convinced. My next call was to my import broker who told me who to contact in US Customs. I made my 3rd call, and was told to speak to another department to verify, because Oman was not coming up as a country that the USA had put sanctions on....so, so far so good right? I made one more call to a very specific department of the government who controls sanctions and terrorist activities.....I had to leave a voice message, but two days later I got a phone call back, which I missed....but a voice mail was left, and it was all green lights. We had no obstructions in the way and we could move forward and set up the shipment....I was so excited, and nervous at the same time, because when you have played this game as long as I have, nothing is for sure until the fish leave the dock at LAX airport.

Finally after over two months of investigation and back and forth, the first shipment was booked, and 3 weeks later, confirmed by Qantas airways....yes 3 weeks later!!!! Normally this is a one week process, but nothing is easy first time around and 26 boxes were headed to LAX. The trip is 55 hours.....so much had been discussed about packing techniques and water quality duties etc.....sterile water was prepared for packing, and the fish were on the way.

Another surprise from Oman is another endemic fish that is only found in this region. And a good one too....a clownfish!!!! Never before bred, or seen in the trade, Amphiprion omanensis was on the way to the USA! To be honest, I wasn't really that excited about this clownfish when I first saw photos of it....another Clarki I thought, and not much sex appeal really....but you know what they say.....Beauty is in the eye of beholder, and I started to receive emails from customers really wanting this fish. Of course breeders from near and far wanted their chance at this fish...it's always nice to be the first at something....and a few people wanted their chance.

When I received my documents for the shipment, I was saddened to see that I was only receiving two clownfish, and both Xtra-Large! WAAAAAAAAAAA! I was not a happy camper. Of course I wanted a pair. I remember comparing two extra large clownfish to a new pair of shoes that were both for the left foot. What was going to do with two giant clownfish??? The shipment arrived, and I sorted through all the boxes looking for the butterfly and clownfish....The butterfly were easy to find as they were in an over-sized box clearly marked, but the clownfish were not as easy to find. To make matters worse, two boxes were mislabeled with the same box number, so we had to open every box and of course as fate would have it, the last box we looked in had the two clownfish. I was sad to see that one of them was laying on the bottom of the bag not looking so hot at all. We raced to get them into acclimation and ultimately we did lose one of the two clownfish, about 5 days later. It just didn't want to come around....

After about 3 days in the QT tank, the clown that was looking good, started to really color up and win my heart. What a gorgeous clownfish indeed, and one of true significance. Check out these pics.

Oman Clown 1 JPEG.jpg


Oman Clownfish 2 JPEG.jpg


The yellow/orange color in it's fins do not do this gorgeous clownfish justice, but you can start to see the color and get an idea.

This fish here was quickly sold to a hobbyist named James......(I'll hold the last name). Others were holding off for the next shipment and hoping for pairs to come in. Of course I was excited to re-order, and get the second shipment going, and asked the supplier to collect 12 pairs for the next shipment. These aren't cheap fish retailing at $799 each....I thought that was a fair price to put on them. We are paying a premium and I actually have heard stories about some of these fish having been offered before for $4000.00! Not sure if that was a black market price or luckily found in other regions....but I am a man of fairness, and I wasn't about to take advantage of what was the first of many to come....so the pricing was set at what I thought was a fair price for everyone.

Fast forward two weeks, and another shipment was sent from Oman to one of my good friends in Europe, landing some clownfish into the Netherlands and into the capable hands of Dejong Waterlife. If you don't know of Dejong, they are a premier wholesaler in Europe and have been around for over 50 years, more recently becoming famous for finding a rare royal gramma in Cuba now known as the "Dejongi basslet" or Cuban Basslett. Dejong opened a collecting station in Cuba a few years ago, and unfortunately, the USA does not allow imports in the USA from Cuba, so we haven't been so lucky to receive fish from there yet.

Now as some of you may have seen, last week an article was written by Reefbuilders one and only Jake Adams about Dejong receiving these clownfish and into a breeding program for the first time. The article was short and sweet, and really doesn't tell the whole story about the big picture, and getting us all here in the USA something to get excited about, and now having access to all these great fish coming in from Oman. Purple tangs that are so deep purple and orange colored fins, they clearly stand out from other countries who also supply purple tangs.

Aside from the fish we commonly know from this region, Purple Tangs, Sohal Tangs, Arabian Butterfly, etc....we will start to see some very cool fish being added into the short list of popular fish.....one of which I am very excited to see and hopefully will come in the next shipment which is a flame tail blenny as shown here from the supplier:

Flame Tail Blenny JPEG.jpg


I showed this photo to Jake Adams about a week before he posted a photo of it on Reefbuilders, and wrote another story about these exciting fish from Oman, or at least I think he mentioned something about them arriving here soon to the USA. I wasn't really to sure about this fish, and it's "reef-safe" nature, but Jake was quick to give it a "hell-yes" and compared it to a Midas blenny.....and I am cool with that! Im sure this photo doesn't do the fish justice either...but Im working with what I got.

As the story continues to unfold, I would just like to add, that I am currently in charge of USA sales, and helping the supplier navigate it's way through the challenges any new supplier faces.

I have successfully convinced the supplier in Oman, to take a conservation approach to the Oman Clownfish, and we are currently putting together a breeding program proposal to present to the Oman government, and hope to successfully breed these beautiful clowns in their home country. In the wake of the Dejong article in Reefbuilders, and the many discussions that quickly followed with the supplier, it was decided by the owner of the exporting company that all future exports of the clownfish will be stopped, and a proper breeding program put into place. I had some very productive conversations with Matt Pedersen of Reef to Rainforest Media (home of Coral Magazine and Amazonas Magazine), who I highly respect as a writer, fish breeder and person, has truly helped me with some very constructive ideas to stop any over fishing of these clownfish, and has really been a solid source for me to help guide the exporting company as well and get us on the right track, doing the right things, and most importantly, protecting the resource and putting together a proper management plan into place. So many thanks go out to Matt....thanks so much! Please look out for more collaborations between myself, Oman and Matt.

So this is my first crack at telling the story.....I hope you all enjoyed it, and find it as interesting as I do.

Feel free to follow me on the social media platforms Instagram and Facebook and even Tik Tok where we just hit over 100K views on one of our fishy video posts! I have two different sites running right now... 1. Amongthereef.com and 2. Tankstop.com

Among The Reef is a high-end fish supplier at the retail level. We hold and condition all our fish a minimum of 30 days and make sure all our disease and parasite free....it's a real pleasure working with all these great fish and building new relationships with hobbyists around the Country.

Tankstop.com is a new online resource for livestock and supplies with a huge selection of everything. Hobbyists can order livestock from Tankstop.com and pass it over to Among The Reef for a full conditioning before the fish is shipped. This has been a powerful message to me that the outpouring of support for this type of service is overwhelming and we are quickly becoming a fish hospital treatment center. It's an honor to work with some amazing species most recently we just successfully released a huge batch of Choati Wrasse that we conditioned over 4 weeks and every single one arrived in great condition to the customers. We are also working with large groups of Lennardi wrasses, and have the last of a great batch of juvenile captive bred Interruptus angels....many almost finished with conditioning and ready to be sold.

Connecting with you all is my greatest passion. Please feel free to ask questions and engage in the discussion. Let's keep the hobby a fun place to be in, and keep raising that bar!

Thanks all.....hit me up!

Eric

This thread is for the general discussion of the Article New Country "OMAN" opens up for the first time and begins USA Imports...THE TRUTH!. Please add to the discussion here.
 
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Mr_Knightley

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Amazing to hear! I'm excited to see some of these Red Sea endemic fish pop up in the market. If possible, maybe a live rock farming operation could be set up to supply people with Red Sea microfauna? that would be a total dream come true.
 

HudsonReefer2.0

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I would imagine that this is bad news for the coral reefs and ecosystems in Oman, as it opens them up to be exploited for sale. Any measures to ensure sustainability? Such as aquaculture of these species
Good for Oman. Let’s see what we can save before the exploitation. The stuff coming out of the Red Sea was amazing start of the new millennium.
 
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Eric Cohen

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I would imagine that this is bad news for the coral reefs and ecosystems in Oman, as it opens them up to be exploited for sale. Any measures to ensure sustainability? Such as aquaculture of these species.
Thanks Fisherdonk.....as noted in the article, the clownfish are now no longer being exported, and the breeding program is now being set up. Im glad you are also a proponent of captive bred livestock! Good stuff!
 

livinlifeinBKK

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I doubt this benefits the people of Oman very much at all...if the exportation of fish was lucrative for the common people then the Philippines and Indonesia would be rolling in cash. The operation will likely be run by am American or European company who control it all.
 
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Eric Cohen

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Amazing to hear! I'm excited to see some of these Red Sea endemic fish pop up in the market. If possible, maybe a live rock farming operation could be set up to supply people with Red Sea microfauna? that would be a total dream come true.
Live Rock from Oman would be awesome! I'll work that into my presentation for the aquaculture project!
 

Doctorgori

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I doubt this benefits the people of Oman very much at all...if the exportation of fish was lucrative for the common people then the Philippines and Indonesia would be rolling in cash. The operation will likely be run by am American or European company who control it all.
I was kinda thinking similar… I remember back in the 70’s all the dead coral being brought in by tourist going to Jamaica and the Bahamas .. Look at it now, still poor and tightly regulated fishery …
Hopefully this new market will benefit the people and be sustainable
 

livinlifeinBKK

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I was kinda thinking similar… I remember back in the 70’s all the dead coral being brought in by tourist going to Jamaica and the Bahamas .. Look at it now, still poor and tightly regulated fishery …
Hopefully this new market will benefit the people and be sustainable
I hate to sound so negative but if they do plan on aquaculturing the fish it seems very unlikely that they would do it on the other side of the world in Oman... wouldn't it make more business sense to aquaculture the fish closer to their final destination instead of then having to fly each shipment to the other side of the world?
 

Doctorgori

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I hate to sound so negative but if they do plan on aquaculturing the fish it seems very unlikely that they would do it on the other side of the world in Oman... wouldn't it make more business sense to aquaculture the fish closer to their final destination instead of then having to fly each shipment to the other side of the world?
and similarly ya know I’ve always wondered why no aquaculture thing has taken hold in Hawaii, Florida, US Virgin Island, PR et et
 

Opus

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and similarly ya know I’ve always wondered why no aquaculture thing has taken hold in Hawaii, Florida, US Virgin Island, PR et et
I believe it is because those places were already shut down before aquaculture was a thing. My understanding is coral can't be removed from Florida if it is attached to rock. This has made it hard for even the artificial reef rock places because even though they lease the "ocean plot" for making reef rock, if coral attaches to a piece it can't be harvested. That is what I was told years ago. It could have been a lie or changed by now.
 

HudsonReefer2.0

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and similarly ya know I’ve always wondered why no aquaculture thing has taken hold in Hawaii, Florida, US Virgin Island, PR et et
Biota has a FL facility
 
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Eric Cohen

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I hate to sound so negative but if they do plan on aquaculturing the fish it seems very unlikely that they would do it on the other side of the world in Oman... wouldn't it make more business sense to aquaculture the fish closer to their final destination instead of then having to fly each shipment to the other side of the world?
Im sure that is what will happen eventually, but I think the supplier wants to have some control in the beginning on the breeding program instead of just sell fish to others. It will definitely show the local fisheries that attempts are being made to be responsible of their fishery. Once the captive raised clowns are sold, it won't take more than a few years before those are also put into breeding programs here....so until then, combining the fish into the regular exports is no big deal although we are still way off on having that problem:) This could take a year or more before we see the first babies.
 
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Eric Cohen

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and similarly ya know I’ve always wondered why no aquaculture thing has taken hold in Hawaii, Florida, US Virgin Island, PR et et
Hawaii has a few aquaculture facilities, as does Florida, and PR was the home of one of the first breeding facilities....I think weather won that battle. Now we see so many aquaculture facilities popping up everywhere....it's a hobby turned business opportunity for many.
 

AnotherReefHobbyist

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My hope for this is that we can gather interesting new variants and species from this new region, and develop them sustainably within aquaculture facilities. Even better would be if this stuff was maricultured within Oman, I think that would have the most benefit for the people residing there, along with allowing any coral and fish that are bred in the region to grow up in a more natural environment.
 

Anemone_Fanatic

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Live Rock from Oman would be awesome! I'll work that into my presentation for the aquaculture project!
The hobby really needs real live rock. Just looking at Red Sea live rock, it looks like really good stuff. Also, will you be bringing in coral with this operation? Coral from the Red Sea is known for being durable in the wild to swinging parameters, so maybe they would be good in our tanks. Whatever the case, I'm excited to see these fish in our stores.
 
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