MUSCAT: As part of the efforts of the Sultanate to promote economic diversification, the Fisheries Labs is all set for launch on September 17, Sunday.
The launch which is for six weeks will be held in the presence of government officials and experts, as well as representatives from the private sector.
The Fisheries Labs comes as a government initiative and is being one of the promising sectors included in the 9th Five-Year Development Plan (2016-2020). The labs are organised by the Ministry of the Agriculture and Fisheries, in cooperation with the Implementation Support and Follow-up Unit.
The fisheries sector in the Sultanate witnessed a quantum leap during the past six years 2011-2016 represented in the growth rates of fish production, production value, contribution to GDP and other performance indicators, achieving rates higher than expected. The labs will focus on three main aspects to discuss and explore their challenges trying to come out with initiatives on aquaculture, catch, processing and export.
The artisanal fishermen are a vital part of the fisheries sector in the Sultanate as the artisanal fishing fleet contributes with a large percentage of fish production, which is estimated at 99 per cent of the total production. The importance is not only economic, but also have some social and cultural aspects.
The artisanal fishing fleet contributes greatly to the supply of fish in the local markets and provides employment opportunities for national manpower. And when looking at the number of artisanal fishermen in the coastal states of the Sultanate, one can realise that these fishermen help in social and economic stability of their families.
In order to provide fish in the local markets and ensure food security in the Sultanate, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries conducts various programmes and projects to develop the capabilities of artisanal fishermen in the coastal governorates, boost up total production and encourage fishermen to keep on their long tradition. The circle of interest also includes the children of those fishermen as it is important to ensure the succession of the fishing profession throughout generations. Therefore, the ministry has organised a number of training workshops for the children of fishermen and received a positive feedback from the targeted families.
According to the statistics of the Ministry until the end of 2016, the Sultanate’s total production of fish amounted to about 280,000 tonnes that is a growth rate of 9 per cent compared to 2015 production that amounted to 257,000 tonnes.
There are currently 24 ports on the shores of the Sultanate contributing to the increase of the fish production from 158,000 tonnes in 2011 to approximately 280,000 tonnes by the end of 2016 that is a growth rate of 12 per cent.
With regards to the fisheries stocks and consumable quantities, the Ministry estimated that the biomass of benthic fish is around 330,000 tonnes, of which about 95,000 tonnes can be used. Currently, used quantity is more than 63,000 tonnes.
The stock of small pelagic fish is more than 1.9 million tonnes, of which 970,000 tonnes are consumable and currently only about 119,000 tonnes are used. Finfish are estimated at more than 5 million tonnes in the Arabian Sea and the Sea of Oman. More than 1.2 million tonnes can be used in many industries related to food production for fish farming.
When it comes to production components and activities related to the fisheries sector, Omanis constitute 91 per cent of the workers in this sector 47,899 Omani and 4,699 expatriates. As of the end of the year 2016 and according to the ministry’s statistics, there are 22,720 small fishing boats, 688 artisanal fishing vessels, 134 coastal fishing vessels, 4,115 fish transport vehicles, 402 marketing outlets, 59 fish markets and 6,044 fish establishments.
Regarding unloaded fish species, the statistics indicate that the small pelagic fish accounted for 51 per cent of the total artisanal catch during the first quarter of 2017 with a quantity of 47,666 tonnes and a rise of 13 per cent compared to the quantities unloaded in the same period last year. This type of fish amounted to 43 per cent of the total unloaded fish in 2016. In January 2017, the largest quantity of fish catch through artisanal fishing was recorded reaching 33,708 tonnes with value of RO 22.842 million, of which 35 per cent were from the Governorate of Al Wusta and 24 per cent from the Governorate of South Al Sharqiyah. The total value of fish unloaded from the artisanal fishing sector during last year 2016 amounted to RO 200.358 million compared to RO 169.422 million during the year 2015 representing an increase of about 18 per cent.
The ministry also works on promoting the establishment of small self-projects of youth, creating employment opportunities for citizens and developing the capacities of the manpower, with an objective to focus on the development of local communities close to the projects and ensure their participation in the ministry’s efforts. The ministry is also working diligently through its plans and studies in the area of aquaculture to achieve an increase in production from fish farming to 100,000 tonnes by 2023.
In addition, the ministry aims at maximising the sector’s contribution to GDP, diversifying sources of income, increasing the competitiveness of the Sultanate, enhancing sectors related to fish farming and providing additional job opportunities for citizens by about 11,000 jobs.
As part of the Sultanate’s efforts to develop this vital activity, the Ministry has carried out scientific research that provided the basis for the commercial growth in the field, helped identify and allocate fish farming sites, in coordination with the competent authorities and facilitated the publication of an atlas for suitable aqua cultural sites and issuance of the aquaculture regulations.
The ministry has also formed a committee for aquaculture that consists of a number of relevant government entities.
Furthermore, many strategic studies have been conducted, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one of which is the Strategic Plan for a Sustainable Aquaculture Development. In order to develop the infrastructure of the sector, the Ministry has established the Aquaculture Development Department to deal with investment applications and develop the sector in a sustainable manner. The Fish Farming Centre was also established to carry out scientific research, as well as the Omani Company for Aquaculture Development.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries pursues fish marketing and investment system development in the Sultanate in order to boost up the quality of fish, provide fish products to the consumer and contribute to ensuring food security and desired contribution percentage to the gross domestic product, helping the Sultanate achieve its economic diversification goals.
In this regard, the Ministry has developed a plan to improve the efficiency of the fish marketing system, renovate existing fish markets, enhance the management and operation of fish markets, establish modern markets (wholesale and retail), design an integrated management system, as well as encourage local and foreign fisheries investments.
Statistics show that the Sultanate’s fish production in 2016 amounted to about 280,000 tonnes with a growth rate of 9 per cent compared to 2015. The total production value was estimated at RO 225 million, an increase of (18.7 per cent) compared to the total production value for the year 2015. The total quantities of fish unloaded in local fish markets in the Sultanate amounted to about 128,000 tonnes for the year 2016.
The ministry also worked to regulate marketing procedures and fish markets in the governorates of the Sultanate, most importantly the wholesale markets, due to the fact that they are viewed to be a meeting point for all fishermen and carriers to meet and sell their products. Besides, the buyers from wholesalers in retail markets, owners of companies, restaurants and hotels visit such markets frequently. In addition to the wholesale, the ministry exerted efforts to develop retail markets in the Sultanate’s different governorates and wilayats. — ONA