WHAT'S THAT IN THE WATER?

Oman 2015 | AGRICULTURE & FISHERIES | FOCUS: AQUACULTURE

Oman hopes to use its abundant fishing resources to develop the aquaculture sector into a major forerunner in the agriculture sector supplying jobs, export incomes, and food security.

In terms of fish supply, Oman is the only fully self-sufficient nation in the GCC, and is a net exporter of fish products to consumers in the region. In 2013, the Omani fisheries and aquaculture sector produced 206,000 tons of product, with nearly half of that for internal consumption, while the remainder was exported.

The development strategy adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is supported by a budget of $1.3 billion. By the end of 2020, the Sultanate will have around 30 multipurpose fishing ports that will not only serve the fishing sector, but also the tourism and trade sectors.

A coastline of 2,092 kilometers represents a huge platform for the Sultanate of Oman to embark on its ambitious aquaculture development program for food security as well as the generation of employment opportunities with the additional ability to earn income through exports to not only the GCC region, but also to Europe. It is clear that aquaculture will play an instrumental role in the agriculture sector of the Sultanate, and will also create thousands of jobs for nationals.

The social component is crucial for a sector that today employs more than 45,000 Omanis. Using aquaculture, the Ministry expects to produce around 200,000 tons of fish products by 2030, which is the equivalent of Oman's current production. This means that Oman has to at least double its production over the next 15 years. Consequently, to achieve these goals, the country is studying success stories pioneered by other countries in this field. The government is basing its plan on the experience of Norway, Turkey, Chile, Scotland, and numerous Mediterranean countries, the forerunners in this area. Investment represents a vital factor for the development of fisheries. The Ministry of Agriculture started heavily promoting aquaculture in early 2013. The Ministry has received over 30 applications for this business, and has permitted 19 schemes worth OMR130 million. These investments represent joint ventures between Omani investors and foreign investment from Asia, the US, Europe, South Africa, and Australia.

Moreover, the Sultanate's aquaculture industry recently received an $80 million injection. Emirates Star Fisheries requested the Omani authorities to allot it 4,000 hectares, selected from the “Atlas of the Suitable site for Aquaculture Projects" in Oman. According to Muscat Daily, production is to begin in 2016 with the farming of 2,500 tons of tiger prawns and 600 tons of seabream and yellowfin tuna, while it will gradually increase to 10,000 tons of tiger prawns and 3,000 tons of seabream, and yellowfin tuna by 2018.

It is clear that aquaculture in Oman is in its infancy, but it has the potential to transform the country into a seafood basket if the planned projects are structured and developed with sustainable production schemes.