Mariculture cage farming in Oman is in its infancy stage. This study provides important baseline information about the initial state of mariculture in Oman and for the sustainable management of future local cage farming. Our main objective was to evaluate the spatio-temporal variations of water quality and hydrography around a gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) cage farm in Quriyat (Sea of Oman). Starting in July 2018, we conducted a monitoring program over one year in which physico-chemical variables and nutrient levels were regularly measured at the farm cages and at reference sites away from the farm. Vertical flow profiles were recorded at the farm and analysed together with remotely sensed data. The results showed no significant differences among physico-chemical variables and nutrient levels between cages and reference sites. However, there were clear seasonal as well as significant short-term variations in the measurements. Winter conditions are usually homogeneous over the water column without reaching extremes. In summer we recorded surface temperatures of up to 32°C and extended periods of hypoxia below 35m depth. Periods of pronounced stratification were interrupted by energetic irregular flow pulses that triggered short up or down-welling events which lead to strong variations of temperature and oxygen. We did not measure a significant impact of the cage farm on the local environment. Our results rather point to the particular importance of monitoring temperature and oxygen levels. Both variables can approach threshold levels for fish farming, especially during summer. We determined the relevant characteristics of the local system and defined requirements for adequate monitoring. The findings of this study provide a timely baseline for future research on the interactions between local cage farms and the marine ecosystem and will assist in the planning and management of mariculture in Oman.
ASJC Scopus subject areas