(22) Fisheries in Arabia. Pearl Fisheries in Arabia.
Fisheries in Arabia
The Arab coasts are much frequented by fish, many of unknown species. Mackerel, mullet, sole, ray, and perch swarm in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf; nor are the sheltered spots on the long line that fronts the Indian Ocean less well provided. Sharks, too, abound along the coast, and are used as food by the poorer classes; crabs and oyster occur almost everywhere. Hence fishing forms the occupation of a large proportion among the littoral population, but ignorance of salting and curing deprives its products of export value.
Pearl Fisheries in Arabia
The pearl fisheries of Arabia alone add to the commercial riches of the country. They commence at the islands of Bahreyn, which lie immediately off the Arab shore, near the centre of the Persian Gulf, and continue east and south along the district of Katar for a distance of nearly 200 miles, after which the banks are lost in deep soundings. The most productive shoals are those between the islands of Halool and the coast of Katar; the fishing season commences with the spring, and lasts all through the summer. Most of the villages along the coast are wholly inhabited by divers, Arabs and Negroes, who by long practice can remain under water a space of two minutes at a time; the depth they reach does not exceed fifteen fathoms, and generally falls much short of it. The oysters are opened on shore, and the pearls carefully sorted and counted by officials stationed for the purpose, as a heavy duty, equaling 20 per cent, of their value, is levied on the spot, though no further dues are taken on exportation. Some of the pearls are of great size and value. The total annual produce is roughly estimated at about 250,000 pounds, but probably exceeds that sum; a portion goes to India; another portion up gulf to Baghdad, whence it is distributed over Syria, Turkey, and Persia. The divers themselves are the worst off, as their occupation induces various congestive diseases and premature old age.
Pearls are found, too, in other bivalve shells of these seas, and are extensively sold, though at a lower price than those of the oysters. Mother-of-pearl is also common, and is an ordinary article of export, especially to Syria and Egypt; so are also occasionally the corals and ornamental shells with which these seas abound.
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