SARNGADHARAN NAMBIAR -
The sea lives in everyone of us, as observed by Robert Wyland. Since ancient times, seas (and by extension, oceans) have been integral to defining our cultural, philosophical and economic possibilities. And now we have a clear platform — Blue Economy — that provides us the right context of engagement with the ocean.
Blue Economy, or the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, enhanced livelihoods and the health of ocean ecosystem, has its defining elements in the use of renewable marine energy (using tides and waves), and ensuring progress through the strategic development of the fisheries and maritime transport sectors. It also encompasses marine and coastal tourism, and has a key role to play in controlling climate change and enhancing waste management as well.
In effect, Blue Economy ensures that growth is driven by responsible investment in a sustainable ocean economy, where the private and government sectors act as catalysts for not just economic development but the protection of the marine environment as well.
Looking at the international picture, the world economy annually loses more than $83 billion because of inefficient fishing methods. Sustainable management of oceans can bring about amazing results, and also strengthen the fishing industry and support fishing communities.
The Sultanate, still haloed in the thrilling legacy of heroic seafarers of yore, can’t be defined without factoring in the marine element, for its economy drew sustenance from fisheries and aquaculture till oil emerged as the major engine of economic growth.
But there is scope for fine-tuning. A 2015 World Bank study highlighted the need to improve economic management of the Sultanate’s fisheries sector and create sustainable employment opportunities. Significantly, collaboration among the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the World Bank and other stakeholders has resulted in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Vision 2040 for Oman, which aims to create a profitable world-class fisheries sector that is ecologically sustainable and a strong contributor to Oman’s economy.
The framework also looks at establishing the required policy and capacity for executing global best practices in the fisheries through organisational and business development, and establishment of new institutions.
It’s true that concerted efforts at the government level have resulted in strong growth in the sector. Fish production last year logged a year-on-year growth of 24 per cent to touch 348,000 tonnes, with a 12-per cent rise in value at RO 227 million. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries aims to further raise fish production to 1.3 million tonnes by 2023, and targets a five-fold increase in the fisheries sector’s contribution to the Sultanate’s GDP, taking it to RO 1.3 billion by 2023 from RO 225 million in 2016.
Oman’s fishing industry is all geared to function as a competitive industry of global scale, going by a recent World Bank report. Meanwhile, the ministry is working on streamlining and fast-tracking processes related to setting up businesses in the fisheries sector.
In a bid to address the concerns of fishermen, the ministry is looking at introducing highly customised programmes for traditional fishermen that will encourage them to continue in their profession. It may be noted that the Tanfeedh’s Fisheries Labs are expected to generate as many as 8,600 new jobs in the fisheries sector by 2023.
Heralding new opportunities and capacity building, the French government has shown its willingness to offer the Sultanate the French expertise and experience in fisheries, especially in the use of latest technologies, and to enhance bilateral investment opportunities in the fisheries sector involving Omani and French companies.
The participation of the Sultanate in the high-level conference on Sustainable Blue Economy held in the last week of November in the Kenyan capital Nairobi is expected to give a new thrust to Oman’s Blue Economy strategy. The conference explored the optimum management of marine life and resources, and best means of harnessing the potential of seas and oceans towards ensuring sustainable development by focusing on innovation and technology in the maritime sector.
The Oman government’s Blue Economy-linked development plan focuses on the establishment and integration of various industries and logistics services near the ports of Sohar, Duqm and Salalah. Oman has a natural advantage because of its strategic location that touches international shipping lines and overlooks the Indian Ocean and the Horn of Africa.
With a set of strategic policies that are completely aligned with the principles of Blue Growth, Oman is empowered to explore the ocean as a key driver of economic development, and is expecting vigorous growth in its fisheries and aquaculture sector. Three cheers to Oman’s Blue Economy!