TBY talks to HE Hamed Said Al-Oufi, Undersecretary of Fisheries Wealth at the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries Wealth, on the role fisheries wealth can play in diversification and boosting the sector through technology.

HE Hamed Said Al-Oufi
HE Hamed Said Al-Oufi is a fisheries development specialist, having obtained a PhD in Fisheries from the University of Hull, UK. He was appointed to his current position in 2006. Between 1991 and 2006, he served in academic roles at Sultan Qaboos University.

How is the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth contributing to a diversified economy in the Sultanate of Oman?

The Omani economy is passing through the diversifying process by focusing on other renewable resources. In the next five-year plan, the government will include fisheries and mining along with tourism, oil, and logistics. One of the components of Oman's diversified economy is fisheries, which includes both sea fishing and aquaculture. We feel that we should utilize the opportunities and optimize production from the seas and also accelerate the growth of aquaculture by expanding production. Of course, this will, by extension, contribute to food security and provide a healthy protein source to the nation, and further afield, as we export 50% of our production. We are the largest market in the GCC, and Europe is also a key export destination.

The development strategy adopted by the Ministry is supported by a budget of $1.3 billion. What will be the main projects executed within the scope of Vision 2020?

We are, of course, primarily interested in expanding infrastructure, and work is being done to bring ports in all coastal towns to the required level of readiness for business. By the end of this period we will have around 30 multipurpose fishing ports that will not only serve the fishing sector, but also the tourism and trade sectors. We expect these multipurpose ports to greatly assist the fisheries and tourism enterprises to be developed as there is wide scope for development. In addition to the new ports, we are also modernizing eight fishing ports built 10-20 years ago. We will enlarge them and develop more facilities to receive the fishing and tourism fleet.

What will be the impact of aquaculture for the development of fisheries in Oman?

We expect to produce around 200,000 tons of fish products by the year 2030, which is the equivalent of our current production from the sea. This means that Oman can double its production over the next 15 or so years from the current 200,000 tons from the sea, although we are aiming by 2030 to have reached close to 500,000 tons of sea-fishery and aquaculture products. Aquaculture will play an instrumental role in boosting production, increasing the income from the seas of Oman, and also creating thousands of jobs for nationals, especially graduates from universities and training schools, and other Omanis. This is the objective we are trying to achieve by promoting this sector. We are basing our plan on the experience of Norway, Chile, Scotland, Turkey and other Mediterranean countries—those are the pioneers in this area. We invite investors from these countries to explore the opportunities in Omani waters. We are building on the experience of others, and that is why we are aggressively promoting the sector in Oman. We also promote our aquaculture and fisheries sector internationally by attending key trade shows in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

Regarding FDI, what are your latest achievements?

We started promoting aquaculture early last year. We have received over 30 applications for the aquaculture business, but only permitted 19 schemes with a total value of OMR130 million. This investment is a joint venture between Omani investors and foreign investment from Asia, the US, Europe, South Africa, Australia, and elsewhere. There is a collection of investors and investment coming from different parts of the world. Now, we are gearing up to work with the first four companies to start their construction phase, probably within 2014.

What role does technology play in this sector?

Our fishermen and people employed in the sector are undergoing training to adopt modern technology to improve the efficiency of fishing gear and vessels, as well as to maximize the output of the aquaculture sector. We have companies in the US transferring state-of-the-art technology to Oman, and we may in fact be the first recipients in the region. Moreover, we want to become a leading player in aquaculture by leveraging every opportunity that our location provides, namely clean seas and suitable locations for aquaculture.