TBY talks to HE Dr. Hamed Said Al-Oufi, Undersecretary of Fisheries Wealth at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, on boosting sustainable production, shrimp farming, and milking the Arabian Sea.

 HE Dr. Hamed Said Al-Oufi
HE Dr. Hamed Said Al-Oufi earned his BSc in fisheries technology from Sultan Qaboos University in 1990 and his master’s and PhD in the management of fisheries from the University of Hull in 1995 and 1999, respectively. He joined Sultan Qaboos University in 1991. He was promoted to assistant professor and in 2001 to Assistant Dean for postgraduate studies and Research in the College of Agriculture and Marine Science. In 2004, he became the Assistant Vice President for Science Colleges. In 2006, he became the Undersecretary for Fisheries Wealth at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth. He has published more than 23 articles in primary journals.

What initiatives has the ministry put in place to drive the development of the fisheries sector over the past year?

First, we have added a greater logistics framework within the sector. We opened a new fishing port in Barka, which was completed in 2015 at a cost of USD36 million, and it will accommodate not only fishing, but also tourism opportunities. That project was launched last year to help Oman increase its catch of fish, which reached 257,000 metric tons, representing an increase of 20% from the previous year. This volume of catch was worth USD447 million. When we include the entire value chain, the figure becomes around USD1.1 billion. That is the value of the fisheries' contribution to GDP. These are the two main improvements in the sector: the big increase in production and an increase in the value of the fisheries as well. The number of registered Omani fishermen also rose to 46,000.

Can you provide more details on the country's first land-based fish farm in Sur?

We have many applications for land-based systems, one of which is for shrimp. These farms will be located close to the beach just south of Sur. This particular project is an investment from a joint venture company from Singapore, Lim Shrimp, and it will farm local species of shrimp. It is aiming to farm 4,000 tons of shrimp annually.

What are some key changes that need to be made at the local level to ensure that the desired development can occur?

The first thing we need to do is complete the necessary infrastructure. We are missing a few ports on the Arabian Sea, so we are designing ports in Masira, Mahut, Shwaymeyaa, Sadah, and Rakhyoot. They are in the final stages of design and we hope we can tender and build those ports soon. All of the logistics needs will be available in these ports, including markets, storage, ice production, and any other services a fishing fleet would need. We hope to complete all of the planned fishing ports in the next two years and renovate the old, smaller fishing ports along the Arabian Sea and the Sea of Oman.

What are some of the ministry's plans for further development in the coming years?

By early 2017 we will have completed two sizeable ports that can accommodate fisheries, coastguard, and tourism in Masnaah and Liwa along the Sea of Oman. We are also completing fish markets in Al Suwaiq in 2016, we just opened a fish market in Seeb, and we will open a fish market in Barka as well. For 2017, we hope to float the big port in Duqm and in other coastal towns on the Arabian Sea. Our aim for growth over 2016 is 10%. In 2015, we saw 22% growth. We do not want to push the stocks to the extreme, but at the same time the government is keen to support the sector. We want to keep our promise to the government that this sector will achieve the promised growth rate, which is 10-20%. By 2020, we are targeting 480,000 million tons of fish production, and we feel that we can achieve that. Another major project that is awaiting final clearance on financing is a huge artificial farm in the Sea of Oman. It will be the biggest in the Middle East, measuring 16,000ha, 8x20km, and located at a depth between 15 and 30m. Our production could see a 10-fold increase once it is complete.