Feature2 » A Taste of Dibba Bay...

A Taste of Dibba Bay...

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If there is one key word that sums up our modern perception of how we want to eat, drink and live our lives, surely that word is sustainability!


It's there in all aspects of life and rightly so for we are now just beginning to understand its importance in society and the civilized world.


Local food sources are now perceived with much more importance and the rapidly increasing availability of those sources in the UAE has led to a surprise candidate the Dibba Bay Oyster!


The farming of oysters is normally associated with colder waters. Oysters are a complicated shell fish and the oysters cultivated in the warm Gulf waters are traditionally farmed for pearls and not for the fleshy meat which was thought to usually require colder water. These Dibba Bay Oysters are widely sought after by hotels and gourmets alike hence the high prices they are beginning to command.


DibbaBay3 jpgI first met the affable Ramie Murray (Managing Director East Coast Shellfish LLC) over 2 years ago, he had been trying to establish oyster farming in Oman for some years without success but he had begun establishing techniques and farming methods which would suit the offshore coastline of the Dibba area with its deep offshore currents being of particular importance. 

Acquiring permissions to farm offshore in the beautiful Dibba area was a long-protracted affair due to the strict environmental controls of Fujairah Municipality. When it had clearly been identified by all parties that having an oyster farm in the area it would actually improve the surrounding environment. One oyster filters between 30-50 gallons of sea water every day, so when you have an army of these bivalves in the Dibba Bay, then it can only help in keeping the waters pristine.


And so, the East Coast Shellfish LLC was established at Dibba Harbour with an ocean concession for farming the oysters just a few kilometres up the coast.


Oysters require rigid attention to detail and Ramie has found it challenging and labour intensive to cultivate the species in the warm Dibba waters. In France, it takes two years for one oyster to mature, compared to eight or nine months in Dibba. 

Here is a brief summary of the process.

First the baby oysters, or spats (which actually look a lot like gravel) are imported from established hatcheries in France  and they are then distributed into his already established farms in Dibba.


The actual oyster is a Japanese Pacific oyster from the Pacific coast of Asia but it has become a popular species farmed in North America, Australia, Europe and New Zealand.


The oysters are then put into fine meshed baskets suspended in a straight line of 100 metres of specialized rope, there can be up to 100 lanterns per line. They are submerged several metres below the water level anchored to specialised concrete blocks on the seabed which keep the baskets in place. The currents pass through allowing the oysters to grow until the spats need to be transferred to larger mesh basket around every few months. 


The oysters are then prepared, overlooking the picturesque Dibba Harbour, for the market, wash clean and scraped down, weighed and measured all by hand and sized. The company produces all the sizes associated with oysters.


These large high-grade oysters fill out their sturdy shells with creamy meaty flesh and are commonly served with champagne! 


The oysters are then placed into plastic tanks as part of a purification standard Once the purification process is completed, the oysters are placed in traditional plywood boxes ready for the buyers.


The rapid growth of Ramie's business brings different logistical problems which Ramie explains can sometimes be a little soul destroying, but I feel he somewhat enjoys his labour of love. His knowledge of his product is extensive and his enthusiasm for it is infectious.


The venture is both exciting, bold, nerve-racking and ground breaking and East Coast Shellfish LLC have created an international reputation with its exclusive brand “Dibba Bay Oysters”.


International hotel groups and well known are coveting the product as they require a daily supply of oysters which are consistently of high quality and the added bonus of them being farmed locally. Oysters normally arrive on jet fuelled aircraft from foreign climates, but chefs and restaurateurs alike are happy to be supplied using sustainable products from the local markets if not to just to cut costs but also to help them achieve sustainability levels which are no doubt written into their companies' ethos and policies.


Already well-known in the area, Ramie is being encouraged by all in the industry to maintain his level of consistency whereby his reputation will be further enhanced in the region. 


Oysters are one of those foods you either 'love or hate' but they are naturally high in many essential vitamins and minerals such as protein, iron, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, zinc, vitamin C and much more. Health benefits include the ability of oysters to aid in weight loss, boost metabolic activity, increase tissue repair and growth, lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, improve immune functions, aid in wound healing, and promote healthy growth. Furthermore, they are a powerful aphrodisiac, can improve blood circulation, and increase bone strength to reduce osteoporosis


The UAE imports a huge amount of food and oysters for the upmarket hotels and restaurant is in high demand - Dubai alone imports 300,000 tons of oysters and Ramie is set to take a slice of that market and he surely will.


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