Aiming to attain greater self-sufficiency in food production, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) is investing in R&D to further develop the country's aquaculture sector.
As global fish populations dwindle, more public and private investment is being directed toward aquaculture, also known as fish farming, in effort to secure the vital food source for future generations.
With its coastline on the Arabian Gulf and its steady freshwater supply from inland rivers, Kuwait is among many nations looking to expand its aquaculture sector. Fish farming remains relatively new among GCC nations and currently only makes up a small part of the economic output, but Kuwaiti officials have been steadily increasing state funding for research and development projects aiming to boost local fish and seafood output with aims to achieve greater self-sufficiency in food production. KISR, which oversees various government initiatives to aid next-generation industries such as green energy and resource conservation, is also managing multiple experiments in search of new ways to increase local fish populations. In line with the Kuwait 2035 development plan, the institute is currently analyzing different fish species to identify which ones are best suited for commercial production. “KISR’s task is to identify economically important species in order to study the stocks and monitor their status, but also develop aquaculture techniques to grow these fish in tanks for commercialization, while enhancing their population in the open sea,” said Dr. Samira A. S. Omar, director general of KISR.
The KISR aquaculture project is currently producing barramundi fish, giant tiger prawn, giant river prawn and giant crab. All four species are well suited to thrive in Kuwait’s hot climate and have proved successful for commercial fish farms operating in similar environmental conditions, such as Australia and Southeast Asia, according to Omar. The four species were also selected for their tendency to grow quickly, making them an ideal match for the increasing appetite for seafood among Kuwaiti consumers.
Currently, Kuwaiti aquaculture projects provide about 20% of local consumption while the rest is either fished locally or imported. Due to the rapid development of Kuwaiti fish farms, aquaculture could potentially fulfill 50% of domestic demand by 2025, according to projections from the state’s Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAAFR). Recent statistics revealed Kuwait’s fish and prawn production grew from 4,000 to 6,000 tons annually between 2015 and 2016, significantly boosting total fish farm output.
The PAAAFR is also bolstering KISR initiatives by overseeing plans to build national fish hatcheries in Kuwait’s Wafra area to support aquaculture ventures breeding Tilapia fish. The authority aims to develop the sector by allocating and streamlining the distribution of fish feed, while organizing annual training courses for citizens interested in starting private aquaculture businesses and offering scientific and technical consultant services. Through its multi-faceted approach, the Kuwaiti state is not only looking to ensure future food security, but also to advance environmental sustainability goals in the Gulf area, where it seeks to safeguard a healthy ecosystem for wild fish to reproduce after a sharp population decline in recent decades. Alongside aquaculture development, KISR launched a national campaign to encourage breeding by releasing 135,000 fish along its coastal areas.
Working in conjunction with PAAAFR, institute officials have launched multiple initiatives to revive Gulf area habitats by installing purification units on rain drainage pipes that will filter inorganic waste. Seasonal fishing bans in the Kuwait Bay and new environmental laws aimed at reducing contamination are also being imposed to benefit local marine life. Through the combination of such efforts, Kuwait is moving toward a sustainable fish and seafood aquaculture sector that will meet local demand and perhaps one day create surplus to serve export markets.