OMAN - National company to develop aquaculture sector

The Omani government is in the process of setting up a national company to spearhead the development of a new aquaculture-based industry in the Sultanate
May 29, 2012

The Omani government is in the process of setting up a national company to spearhead the development of a new aquaculture-based industry in the Sultanate, a senior official of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries announced. Dr Saud Hamoud al Habsi, Director General of Fisheries Research, said the proposed initiative is a key part of an ambitious strategy by the government to jumpstart the growth of a major aquaculture sector in Oman.

Presenting a paper on the second day of the Oman Economic Forum organised by Al Roya, the official said the government had identified aquaculture as a promising economic industry with the potential to contribute significantly to GDP growth, employment generation, and export earnings. Equally, a thriving aquaculture sector could help bolster supplies of fresh fish to the local market, and also contribute to the national food security strategy, he added.

“The economic benefits flowing from aquaculture development are immense. We envisage output from aquaculture based activities soaring to 220,000 tons by the year 2030, if the appropriate supportive measures and incentives are in place. Furthermore, the Council of Ministers has already adopted aquaculture as an initiative of national necessity, while the relevant authorities have mooted its pursuit in the interest of enhancing food security. All government ministries and departments have also committed to support this initiative,” Dr Al Habsi told delegates during a session on Food Security yesterday.

According to the official, the Sultanate’s lengthy coastline, along with the diversity of its inshore waters and environmental attributes, augurs well for the development of a full-fledged aquaculture industry in Oman. Globally, aquaculture is ranked as among the fastest growing economic sectors, with output burgeoning to 80 million tons in 2010, valued at a staggering $25 billion. Such is the rapid growth of this sector that aquaculture volumes are projected to rival wild fishing production by the year 2020, he said.

Significantly, as many as 111 locations along the Sultanate’s coast have already been identified for aquaculture projects, said Dr Al Harbi. “We have been working closely with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs to ensure the suitability of these sites for aquaculture investment, while also studying new locations. At the same time, the Ministry of Housing has allocated special sites for the development of aquaculture projects on land.”

Dr Al Harbi also affirmed the government’s strong support for the sector, noting that a lot of planning effort had already gone into the study and conceptualization of a strong and viable aquaculture industry in the Sultanate. Sultan Qaboos University has conducted a number of feasibility studies, while other public sector institutions are committing resources for the training of Omani cadres. For its part, the government was focused on the establishment of a legal framework to support the growth of the industry.

Among the fish species deemed ideal for aquaculture are kingfish, cofur, sea bream, shrimp and other types with a high nutritive and biomedical value, he added.

Extrapolating global growth trends, he said output from Oman’s home-grown aquaculture industry was projected at 18,500 tonnes by the year 2015, rising to 29,000 tonnes by 2020, before topping 220,000 tonnes a decade later.

This compares with a current average annual production of around 150,000 tonnes from wild fishing activities.

Helping support the achievement of this goal will be a new government-run national company for aquaculture development, he added.

Among the many spin-offs from a thriving aquaculture industry will be employment generation, the official stressed. “For every 1,000 tonnes of aquaculture produce, there will be a requirement of 50 people to work on the farms.

Going by our strategy for developing the sector, we envisage the potential for 11,000 new jobs. And with aquaculture associated with 41 different ancillary and spin-off activities, the multiplier effect in terms of job generation will be correspondingly high.”