MEED Oman conference told sultanate’s fish catch to grow by 10 per cent annually; fisheries to become strategic industry

Al Bustan Palace, Oman. 28 October 2014. The fish catch by the sultanate’s fishing industry is growing by 10 per cent a year and could reach 500,000 tonnes in 2020 compared with just over 200,000 tonnes in 2013, the MEED Oman Projects conference was told this morning.

“Most other fisheries have reached saturation,” undersecretary of fisheries wealth at the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries Hamed al-Oufi said. “Ours is still growing.”

Oman has 3,1656km of coastline and 1,300 species of fish have been identified in the sultanate’s waters. It employs about 40,000 fishermen, almost all of them Omanis. Sales of fish in Omani ports were worth $415m in 2013.

Al-Omani said that there were more than 20,000 vessels working in the Omani fishing sector, but 19,000 are small and 698 traditional fishing vessels. Modern ships comprise 130 coastal fishing vessels and 34 commercial fishing vessels.

Al-Oufi said the industry has been hindered by underinvestment and the seasonal nature of employment which has discouraged Omanis working in the sector. “The government has introduced a pension for the self-employed which will attract more people to the sector,” Al-Oufi.

“We are trying to improve the life for people working in the sector and at the same time we are trying to protect the environment,” Al-Oufi said.

“We have a strategic plan that has been approved by the Supreme  Council of Planning. This calls for an upgrade of the fleet, modernisation of fishing harbours to increase the number to 31 by 2021, the development of fish marketing and exports and the development of commercial aquaculture,” Al-Oufi said.

Al-Oufi said that plans call for the exploitation of small pelagic species that are found in great abundance in the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz. These can be used to produce animal feedstock and fish oil.

Al-Oufi said that fishing projects include new fishing harbours and infrastructure and villages for fishermen.

“We develop these projects through partnership with the private sector,” Al-Oufi said.

“We are building the harbours but we need people to invest in processing plants and workshops,” Al-Oufi said. “There are plenty of opportunities, but the government will take the lead.”

Al-Oufi said a new wholesale market has been opened in Barka.

“People used to go to Saudi Arabia and other places to sell their fish. Now they can do it in Oman,” Al-Oufi said.

Al-Oufi said three new fishing harbours are under construction, three are at the tender stage and six are under design.

“We are building these harbours to be multi-purpose,” Al-Oufi said. “There is space for tourism, a ferry and the coastguard.”

The biggest project is the Duqm Fisheries Industrial Zone which the government is investing $250m in.

“It will be the largest multi-purpose fisheries facility in the Middle East,” Al-Oufi said. “There will be 60 processing plants, storage, a fishing port, vessel repair, aquaculture and training facilities.”

“The tender for the port has been floated and we are inviting consultants to bid for the contract to do the masterplan for the entire project,” Al-Oufi said. “We need partners to invest in and operate this zone.”

Al-Oufi said Oman’s fishing industry plans include aggressive investment in fish farming.

“Oman is to be the leader in aquaculture in the Gulf region,” Al-Oufi said. “We have a long coastline and clean water very suitable for aquaculture.”

The Oman Aquaculture Company has been created to support and invest in the industry, Al-Oufi said.

“We have done a major study and developed an atlas for suitable sites for aquaculture,” Al-Oufi said. “The regulatory framework for the sector was established in 2011. Investment guidelines are prepared. We have incentives in place and we have identified species appropriate for fish farming.”

These include shrimp, tuna, sea bream and grouper.

“We are ready to invite serious investment proposals,” Al-Oufi said. “Aquaculture in Oman is to reach 200,000 tonnes output in the next three decades.”

“There is a connection between tourism and aquaculture,” Al-Oufi said. “We don’t think there will be competition.”

“We forecast income from fishing could hit RO 396.6 million in 2020,” Al-Oufi said. “But the total contribution to GDP could be around RO 739.2 million.”

Al-Oufi said the expansion of the fishing industry will have further knock-on effects. “We are planning for the construction of 1,000 new vessels and we want these to be built in Oman.” Al-Oufi said. “We are encouraging investors to set up shipbuilding yards in Oman.”


Sponsors of MEED Oman Projects Forum

Oman Development Bank is SME financial partner. AECOM is bronze sponsor. Drake & Scull International and Hill International are conference sponsors. Al Madina Insurance, Acciona and EHAF are exhibiting. Rotary Engineering is lanyard sponsor. Networking sponsors are Galfar and Sarooj.