2019 to see big fisheries projects taking off

Muscat, Jan 26 – Fisheries sector is expected to see lot of developments this year, including launch of aquaculture projects in the Sultanate, said Dr Hamed al Oufi, Under-Secretary of Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Outlining the government’s plan, he said: “The strategy is to produce at least 100,000 tonnes of a variety of species such as shrimp, sea bream, trooper, salmon, sea cucumber, tilapia and abalone.”
Dr Al Oufi said while some projects are ready, some are under construction and others in the mobilisation process.
One of the plans for fisheries includes aquaculture. Production from sea cages in Qurayat began last year. While exports to the regional markets has begun from here, the plan is to export it to Europe and North America.
Talking about the artificial coral farm in Al Suwaiq, which is also called the ‘underwater city’, he said the farm is expected to help increase fish productivity as it creates a habitat.
“A year after the habitat is created, it will attract fishes of all sizes. It will be a place for sheltering fish and breeding as migratory fish will seek refuge from predators, large fish and sharks,” he said.
The artificial coral farm, which is 20 km long and 8 km wide, is said to be the biggest in the Middle East. It is expected to enrich the marine environment as a new ecology is created at the location.
“Its construction has begun. We will have an official ceremony in March to inaugurate the project,” he said.
Part of the Tanfeedh labs’ outcome includes 91 projects and initiatives. This includes expansion of commercial fishing in the country.
“We produce 350,000 tonnes of fish, 99 per cent of which comes from traditional fishermen with small boats. We have a vast area, a corridor in Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, which is unexploited. Investors of vessels should be given an opportunity to explore these resources.”
Some vessels have already arrived in Oman and are expected to begin work in next two to three months. “We are ready to receive the first catch by May or even before that,” said Dr Al Oufi.
This, he said, was in parallel to the development of a fishing port in Duqm, which is under construction. Behind the fishing port is an industrial zone dedicated to fisheries. It could be the biggest fisheries hub in the Middle East with fish processing plants.
The idea is to receive fish from the Omani fleet working in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean as well as the international fleet working in the Indian Ocean to come in, have fish processed in Oman and add value. Oman, he said, can become the main exporter of fish and fish products in the region.
“We are in the middle of the world — six hours from Europe, Asia and Africa. The port of Duqm can export frozen products. We have excellent road network. All these logistics services and connectivity can create the right environment, proving an advantage for investors,” he said.
The ministry has received interests from investors in China, India, Turkey and Italy for setting up facilities in Oman.