Oman receives biggest ever shipment of live fish for aquaculture project

Muscat: Underscoring the Omani government’s ambitions to develop a thriving aquaculture industry in the Sultanate, Blue Waters (BWs) – a group company of Fisheries Development Oman (FDO) wholly owned by Oman Investment Authority (OIA) – recently took delivery of the largest shipment of fish fingerlings for its maiden fish farming project currently under implementation off Qurayyat in Muscat Governorate.

The consignment – comprising two million fish fingerlings – was the biggest shipment of live fish to be handled by Transom, the air services arm of Oman Aviation Group overseeing ground handling, air cargo, catering, hospitality, and Muscat Duty-Free.

With the arrival of the fish fingerlings, work on state-owned Blue Waters’ flagship finfish aquaculture project is set to make headway, according to a top official of the company.

“BWs mandate is to develop finfish aquaculture projects in Oman and contribute to making aquaculture projects as one of the contributors to the country’s GDP and food security in the future,” said Nabeel al Ruwaidhi (pictured), General Manager.

“Our first project is concerned with growing up Gilthead European Seabream fingerlings in offshore floating cage farms to commercial, marketable sizes. The farm has a capacity of 3,000 tons per year. In order to achieve our production capacity, we need to accelerate the stocking of seabream fingerlings. At this stage, we have to import the fingerlings live from Europe till such time we have our own hatchery in Oman.”

In remarks to the Observer, Al Ruwaidhi noted that seabream production from the project is targeted at around 1,300 tons this year, rising to 3,000 tons in 2022 with accelerated stocking of fingerlings. Also by 2022, Blue Waters’ first hatchery for such fingerlings is due to be operational, with a maximum capacity of nine million fingerlings.

Significantly, Qurayyat is proposed to be the epicenter of Blue Waters’ aquaculture investments, according to the official.  “We have quite an ambitious plan to build up capacity of up to 10,000 tons of fish farming in Qurayyat in the long term. We are hoping in the coming five years to expand the seabream farm to 5,000 tons capacity. We have plans also for investing in a tuna fattening farm by the end of 2021 and a project for farming some local species such as Cobia. In order to cater for the future 10,000-ton capacity, we are currently putting up the plan for a comprehensive support centre in Qurayyat fisheries port that includes packaging plant, storage, maintenance workshops and offices.”

Al Ruwaidi estimates Blue Waters’ investments in finfish aquaculture projects to rise to more than $50 million over the next five years – part of parent company FDO’s broader vision to ignite the growth of a wider aquaculture industry in the Sultanate.

Emphasising the importance of a strong sector for the Sultanate, he stated: “Aquaculture is the future of the fisheries industries as the world is suffering from overexploiting and the fast depletion of several species. Responsible and sustainable fishing is a must, however, compliance all over the world is an issue. As such, aquaculture projects are seen as providing an eco-friendly and sustainable solution. Aquaculture contribution to global production currently is around 45 per cent and is expected to rise to more than 65 per cent by 2030. In Oman, we need to catch up as our aquaculture projects contribute less than 1 per cent of the country’s fish production.”

Additionally, aquaculture can open up substantial opportunities for SMEs, international investors and R&D houses, said the General Manager. “We currently work closely with Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries Wealth and Water Resources along with Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) to commercialise some of the opportunities. We are happy to collaborate with SMEs to explore potential interest areas.

We welcome any investor interested in our projects that can transfer know-how, introduce new technology and/or develop local capabilities. We are currently exploring a number of projects with technical partners and hope to conclude some of them by next year,” he further added.