By Kabeer Yousuf — MUSCAT — The growing consumption of fish in the world in general and the region in particular is a concern and needs to be addressed, according to a report on aquaculture issued recently. Worldwide humans ate 130.8 million tonnes of fish last year. The remaining 23.2 million tonnes of fish went to non-food uses such as fishmeal, fish oil, culture, bait, and pharmaceuticals.
The human consumption figure has increased 14.4 per cent over the last five years. And consumption of farmed fish has risen ten-fold since 1970, at an annual average of 6.6 per cent per year. Asia consumes two thirds of the fish. In Oman alone tonnes of fish is caught annually and majority is consumed domestically, while the rest is exported. The government has recently introduced export control over some of the traditional Omani fish.
Besides, Oman is on the path of inviting more investments in aquaculture that sees great potential in the Omani waters. A move in this direction was set with the launch of bylaws and investment guidelines by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Dr Fuad bin Jaafar al Sajwani, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, announced the bylaws this month.
“We are attracting more investments in aqua farming by opening the doors to receive applications from individuals and specialised companies interested in utilising the promising investment opportunities in this sector,” Al Sajwani told the Observer.
Oman, as a country that promotes aqua farming expects about RO 320 million to be invested by 2030 in aqua farming by the private sector.
The report of the Institute’s State of the World report which is published annually in more than 18 languages released in the Washington, DC, says that phenomenal growth in aqua farming can also be harmful to the marine habitat.
“Growth in fish farming can be a double-edged sword,” says Nierenberg, co-author of the report and Director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project.
“Despite its potential to affordably feed an ever-growing global population, it can also contribute to problems of habitat destruction, waste disposal, invasions of exotic species and pathogens, and depletion of wild fish stock.”
According to the report, the total global fish production, including both wild capture fish and aquaculture, reached an all-time high of 154 million tonnes in 2011, and aquaculture is set to top 60 per cent of production by 2020.
On the other hand, aquaculture has been expanding steadily for the last 25 years and saw a rise of 6.2 per cent in 2011.
To tackle this issue, the report says, a sustainable fishing strategy has to be developed. And to maintain the current level of fish consumption in the region, aquaculture will need to provide a substantial amount of farmed fish by 2020.
To produce this additional amount, fish farming will also have to provide the necessary feed to grow the omnivorous and carnivorous fish that people want. Aquaculture is being pressured to provide both food and feed because of the oceans’ overexploited fisheries.
The Omani ministry has approved to allocate 30,196,622 square metres for aquafarming projects. Experts have also conducted studies on aquafarming and the possible effects on fish prices in the Sultanate.
The study concluded that aquafarming is not a competitor to the fish industry, but rather complimentary to it. It will limit the price hike and avail job opportunities.