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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 119-124

Role of cultural and socioeconomic factors in fish consumption among Omani population: A pilot survey

Department of Soils, Water and Agricultural Engineering, College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

Date of Submission13-Jun-2016
Date of Acceptance20-Jun-2016
Date of Web Publication23-Jun-2016

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Annamalai Manickavasagan
College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat
Sultanate of Oman
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2231-0738.184584

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Background: Fish is one of the major components of a balanced healthy diet, and it is a good source of several beneficial compounds. Cultural and socioeconomic factors such as financial status of people, awareness about the health benefits of fish, and cost and availability of fish in the market plays an important role in fish consumption among Omani population. Methodology: This study was designed to assess the fish consumption in terms of purchase, storage, cooking methods, and consumption patterns of selected 240 convenient Omani populations. The mailed survey enabled to collect the data about the cultural, socioeconomic, health, and nutritional factors which might influence the consumption of fish in Oman. Results and Conclusion: Exploration of cultural and socioeconomic factors was done with the help of descriptive and inferential statistics. The outcome of this study might be useful in promoting fish consumption among Omani people. However, the sample size used in this study is less, and may not be the representation of Oman.

Keywords: Cultural and socioeconomic factors, fish consumption, Oman

How to cite this article:
Al Riyami ZK, Al-Ismaili AA, Al-Hattali HS, Essa MM, Sathishkumar J, Manickavasagan A. Role of cultural and socioeconomic factors in fish consumption among Omani population: A pilot survey. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2016;6:119-24

How to cite this URL:
Al Riyami ZK, Al-Ismaili AA, Al-Hattali HS, Essa MM, Sathishkumar J, Manickavasagan A. Role of cultural and socioeconomic factors in fish consumption among Omani population: A pilot survey. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis [serial online] 2016 [cited 2022 Dec 5];6:119-24. Available from:

   Introduction Top

The Sultanate of Oman has 1700 km of coastal line in the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea. The major economic revenues are generated by the coastal communities by fishing and promoting the fish trading. The total fishing gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was measured as 422 million USD (approximately 162 million optical music recognition) which comprises import and export from 1.3-50.6 to 5.8-146 million USD, respectively, in the past three decades. This contributes to 1.9% of national GDP in 2010. [1]

Fish is one of the major components of a balanced healthy diet, and it is a good source of several beneficial compounds such as high biological value proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Fish is an excellent source of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (ω-3 PUFAs), and it consists of docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. Healthy diet helps in protecting the people against malnutrition and noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases. [2] Previous studies showed that fish intake of approximately two servings per week reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Fish also has positive effects in chronic health problems such as inflammation, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. It is also proven that adequate consumption of fish is important for the development of brain, particularly in children, and for cognitive performance. [3]

The total energy (kcal/capita/day) of fish and seafood was observed to have a greater decline of 21.2% since 2001-2011 in Oman. Socioeconomic factors such as economic status of people, awareness about the health benefit of fish, and cost and availability of fish in the market play an important role in the fish consumption among Omani population. [4]

It is a well-known fact that intake of fish by Omani population is knitted with their day-to-day life for several generations. Besides, the trading policies of Sultanate of Oman, emerging of International food brands, and more junk food consumption by the young Omani population are raising the concerns of fish intake by the Omani population. It was meticulously taken care to improve the fish and fish product consumption to maintain the optimum level of health and healthy lifestyle. The policy makers have taken measures to avoid the potential ill effects. Hence, there is a need to develop policy to improve the fish and fish product consumption. There is an urgent need to improve the fish trading in domestic market which might help to develop a strategic plan to further ban the export of five popular specific varieties of fresh fish including kingfish and tuna, which would improve the consumption of fish thereby the improvement in the health-related quality of life of Omani people could be achieved. [5]

For the understanding of academicians, researchers, and policy makers involved in fish processing and fish trading, no sufficient literature is available on the determinants of fish consumption pattern and the knowledge level on consumption of fish after initiative of the government to encourage people to consume more fish. It is required to assess the postinterventional assessment of change on the export policy and its impact on the Omani society. This study was designed to assess the fish consumption in terms of purchase, storage, cooking method, and consumption pattern of Omani population.

   Materials and Methods Top

To bring out the factors or determinants of fish purchase, storage, cooking methods, and consumption pattern of Omani people, an exploratory survey with convenient sampling method was adapted. A team of three bachelor's students headed by two academicians executed the entire study. It is a nonfunded academic explorative survey. The results analyze the cultural, socioeconomic determinants and food security policies involved in fish consumption in Oman.

The survey was conducted with a developed online questionnaire to measure the postpolicy implicational level consumption of fish purchase, storage, cooking methods, and consumption pattern by the Omani population. The questionnaire was checked for translational bias since it was made in English and Arabic. Questionnaire comprises four sections with 29 questions. It includes seven questions of sociodemographic variables, 16 questions to explore the consumption in terms of amount, frequency, mode of purchase, storage condition, and cooking methods of fish, two questions to map the awareness of omega-3 fatty acid as nature and requirement to maintain health, and four questions about the consumer attitudes and perception toward health awareness on impact of storage of fish and the source of information about the consumption of fish.

Administration of survey

Validated questionnaires were transformed to a template as fillable forms in Google Drive and sent to the survey participants consented to take a part in this survey. Eighty percent of response rate was observed. It was totally 240 respondents, among them, 66 (27.5%) of males and 174 (72.5%) of females have responded to the study. A total of 7 days of response time were given from the day the mail was sent by the investigators after obtaining the consent form the participants.

Data handling and statistical analysis

The collected data were carefully converted into a form of excel sheet to export to SPSS-23 (IBM, SPSS Inc., Armonk, NY, United States of America) for further data analysis. The dual checking was done to ensure the very minimal data entry bias. The survey was analyzed with descriptive and inferential statistics. The results of analyzed data were charted under cultural, economic, health, and nutritional awareness aspects. Health and nutritional aspects were included to measure the current level of resilience on food security policies.

   Results and Discussion Top

Cultural factors involved in fish consumption

Educational level plays an important role in determining the intake of healthy food from the available market [Figure 1]. In general, fish consumption and purchase are also not exceptional to this consumerism. It was found that there was a significant positive correlation among the level of education and individual or family intake of variety of specific fish which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. [6] Present study showed that 55.8% of participants met the dietary recommendation of consuming more than two serving per week and also 56% of consumers with university education level demonstrated the frequency of two to four times of fish or fish products per week in comparison with 53% of consumers with primary and secondary education levels eat two to four times of fish or fish products per week.
Figure 1: Relationship between education level of the participants and fish consumption

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[Figure 2] shows that, there were 67.1% of people who are aware of the health benefits of fish and its consumption for maintaining the optimal level of health. Verbeke et al. reported that there were 46% of population who were aware of health benefits, but in the selected Omani population, the awareness is far better than the other community in terms of understanding between the health benefits and fish. [7]
Figure 2: The percentage distribution of the perception of individuals on consumption of fish

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The conclusive evidence from the Omani population was that 92.3% of the people believe that consuming fish is good for a child's brain development. This report is a sign that Government's role is very much essential on initiating and encouraging the population to consume more of fish and fish products to prevent ill effects. [7],[8]

Role of socioeconomic factors in fish consumption

Of the samples, 3.5% of samples did nott eat or buy fish or fish products. In the samples, 2.5% of participants do not consume fish by nature, but 1% did not eat or buy fish or fish product due to its' high price. Around 63% of the participants reported that the price of fish is expensive. People tend to consume less fish because of their lower income status which corroborated with the previous report. [9]

It was found that 30.5% of low-income samples expressed that they consume fish one or two times in a week as compared with 51% of high-income group people who consume fish two to four times in a week, and it was statistically proven to have significant association between increased fish per unit price with the low family income. [10]

Positive correlation was found between the size of family and the quantity of the household fish consumption. Because of the population growth, there is a gradual increase in the demand of domestic supply and consumption of fish.

The educative measure to improve the nutritional status of people and the modification of the fish export policy of five specific variety of fish including kingfish and tuna has positive impacts on Omani people as it is noted to have a gradual increase of population consumption of 67% of kingfish and 49% of tuna fish. It was rated that these two varieties of fish are frequently purchased from fish center - Souq and hypermarkets, respectively. [Figure 3] depicts that the majority of people, i.e., 73.1% trade with fish center - Souq to purchase the fish. The second largest trading opportunity could be seen in a way that 30% of people are purchasing at hypermarkets in and around Oman.
Figure 3: Fish buying places in Oman

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Health and nutritional awareness on consumption of fish

The primary resource of the omega-3 fatty acids is obtained by the consumption of fish in an appropriate method of storage and adapting the effective cooking to prevent the nutritional loss. Prolonged storage and improper storage techniques enhance the nutritional deterioration. [11]

[Figure 4] shows that 6.8% of participants buy dried fish which is less susceptible to spoilage because of its low moisture content. However, most participants (91.5%) buy fresh fish which is not affected by storage techniques. Fish, especially fresh fish, needs to be stored in appropriate conditions to ensure quality and safety. [Figure 5] indicates that around 16% of participants store fish in refrigerator, whereas 83% of them store in freezer. According to Food and Drug Administration, both refrigeration and freezing are possible to store fish but the length of storage period to ensures quality will be different based on the type of fish. Both lean and fatty fish can be stored for 24-48 h under refrigeration with a temperature of maximum of 4°C. In freezer (−18°C or less), lean fish can be stored for 6 months, whereas fatty fish can be stored for only 2-3 months. It is also mentioned that canned seafood can be stored in dry store with appropriate temperature and humidity. [12]
Figure 4: Fresh and processed fish purchased by Omani people

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Figure 5: Percentage distribution of storage techniques adapted in domestic fish consumption

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In terms of cooking methods, around 28.7% of participants use frying as cooking method and around 22.2%, 24.2%, and 24.6% use grilling, boiling, and baking methods, respectively [Figure 6]. However, only 2.2% of participants cook food using microwave. Previous studies showed that ω−3 PUFAs was lost more when fish was fried comparing to other cooking methods. They also showed that there was no significant difference in - omega-3 content between fresh fish and fish cooked by microwave as it preserved the content of fish fat. [13]
Figure 6: Cooking methods for fish followed in Oman

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[Figure 7] shows that around 42% of participants use the same oil to fry fish for one time, whereas about 45% use it twice. However, 10% of participants use the same oil for more than two times. According to Leong et al. (2015), oil is exposed to an extremely high temperature during frying in the presence of moisture and air. Under this condition, a series of chemical reactions takes place. These reactions result in losing the quality and nutritional values of oil. Reusing oil also initiates several reactions that lead to re-composition of oil via many reactions including oxidation and hydrolysis. These reactions eventually lead to lipid peroxidation which produces many of undesirable volatile and nonvolatile compounds such as free fatty acids, alcohols, and trans isomers. Excessive reuse of oil leads to foaming enhancement, color darkening, and off-flavor. Exposure to high temperature in the presence of oxygen leads to triglycerides oxidation producing unstable intermediates, hydroperoxides, which rapidly breakdown into reactive-free radicals. It is proved that free radicals are harmful to human health. [14]
Figure 7: Percentage distribution of usage of oil for fish frying

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[Figure 8] shows the source of information of people. People are found to improve their knowledge, i.e., 82.6% from internet and very less of participants seek information from other unclassified resources.
Figure 8: Percentage distribution of source of information

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[Figure 9] shows that the 37.5% of people perceives that the storage of fish may not affect the nutrients in the fish but only 2.1% of people agree to the storage would affect the nutrients in the fish. It is partially correlating with the previous reports and Ryder et al. (1993). The government may take other initiatives to educate the common public in the media of mass communication about the cooking of fish without the loss of nutrients. [15],[16],[17],[18],[19]
Figure 9: Percentage distribution of people in expression of their view in storage of fish and nutrient loss

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Recommendations and implications

The same survey can be implemented as a nationwide study to explore the influence of cultural and socioeconomic factors in fish consumption. The future directions can be driven into the assessment of available wide variety fish at Oman coastal region and bioavailability and accessibility of compounds evaluation. The detailed compound analysis will help to improve the nutritional status of the young population of Oman. The infrastructure development of fish market and modern preservation technologies can be introduced to improve the accessibility to the local fish vendors. Through this initiative, the lower level population involved in the trading of fish would improve. The availability of more number of vendors would be very much instrumental to make sure that the population consumes the healthy fish. This baseline assessment would be informed to the policymakers to develop further indicators for concurrent and continuous evaluation of trading policies of fish in Oman.

   Conclusion Top

This baseline study would enable to develop further indicators of fish consumption and to improve the factors involved in fish consumption at national level. The future directions and policy decisions will influence the domestic consumption, trading, and the nutritional status of people at Sultanate of Oman. Most of the local livelihood population purchases fish at Souq center. The government may take initiative on regulating and supervising the hygiene and other important factors involved in fish consumption. The improvement in infrastructure development and closed supervision may ensure the fish distribution at affordable cost to the people.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

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Verbeke W, Sioen I, Pieniak Z, Van Camp J, De Henauw S. Consumer perception versus scientific evidence about health benefits and safety risks from fish consumption. Public Health Nutr 2005;8:422-9.  Back to cited text no. 7
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Arab-Tehrany E, Jacquot M, Gaiani C, Imran M, Desobry S, Linder M. Beneficial effects and oxidative stability of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Trends Food Sci Technol 2012;25:24-33. Available from: Presentation Papers-2015/n-3Lipidoxidation.pdf. [Last retrieved on 2016 Mar 18].  Back to cited text no. 11
Food and Drug Administration. Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart; 2015. Available from: [Last retrieved on 2016 Mar 18].  Back to cited text no. 12
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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8], [Figure 9]

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