The Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) has offered consumers some practical advice to ensure they are buying fresh fish that is fit for human consumption.

In a release, the MEC pointed out that consumers should take extra care when buying fish as it is among the foods that could go bad quickly and accordingly lead to food poisoning.

"It is preferable to consume the fish on the same day of the purchase. Otherwise, it should be cleaned and covered by a piece of cloth soaked in water and salt to maintain its moisture. Then, it could be kept in the coolest place in the fridge in a plate covered by a piece of plastic . The maximum period fish kept this way should not exceed three days."

The freshness of fish can be ensured by checking its gills, which should be of a natural rosy colour and free of any mucus, the MEC note said. In addition, the eyes of the fish should look bright and clear, and the overall surface of the fish should be glossy and free from layers of mucus. The flesh of fresh fish will go back to its normal shape when pressure over it is released. A swollen or burst belly may point to stale fish.

For fish with scales, these should be firm on the skin and should do not fall off easily, and the skin of those without scales should be smooth without any wrinkles. The colour of the flesh of the fish should be natural and translucent. The MEC said consumers should observe these guidelines to avoid commercial fraud and buy safe products.

The ministry advised sellers to abide by rules and regulations such as the use of digital weighing scales, issuing of proper invoices in Arabic and displays explaining the advantages and qualities of the product. Fresh fish should be kept at temperatures near zero degree centigrade, ice should be crushed into small grains and used in needed quantities to keep the fish fresh, and clean tools and containers should be used for displaying or transporting fish.

The MEC also stressed the health and nutritional benefits of eating fish and advised the public to consume it at least once a week. Besides, it gave a number of tips on cooking fish to benefit the most from it.

Consumers in Qatar have wide choices for buying the commodity from the Umm Slal Central Market, Al Wakrah, Al Khor and Al Shamal fish markets, the Doha Corniche and shopping malls around the country.

Qatar's local production of fish amounts to 14,000-16,000 tonnes a year, which covers up to 80% of the local consumption. Among the most common local fish varieties are hamour, sheri, kingfish, safi and different types of shrimps and prawns. Around 3,000 tonnes of fish are imported into the country annually. The overall catch of the Arab countries comes to 4.5mn tonnes, with Morocco, Egypt, Mauritania and Saudi Arabia being the lead producers.