FISH FARMING TECHNOLOGY
SUSTAINABILITY AND INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES In a recent study projecting the global supply and demand of fish and fish products to 2030, Kobayashi et al. (2015) reported that aquaculture in the Middle East and North Africa (MNA) is expected to grow by 76 percent from 2010 to 2030.
by Professor Abdel-Fattah M. El-Sayed, Head of Oceanography, Faculty of Science, Alexandria University, Egypt
thought it would be interesting to shed some light on aquaculture in the Middle East (ME), with emphasis on geographical challenges and constraints, as well as potential development opportunities. I believe such information could be a beacon of light for those investors who are willing to pump investment into the aquaculture industry and supporting industries in the region. This information may also be useful for producers, researchers, decision makers and various other stakeholders. I have been engaged in aquaculture development in the Middle East and North Africa for more than three decades, therefore writing an article on the status of aquaculture in the region appears timely. In addition to the private sector, I have also been an aquaculture consultant with a number of international and regional organizations, including WorldFish, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD). In order to understand whether aquaculture in the ME really has a future, and can attract investment, it is essential to firstly observe the production trends of both capture fisheries and aquaculture over the past three decades. Annual capture fish production has been relatively stable, rising from 1.7 to 1.9 million tonnes produced during the past 15 years, with a little room for expansion. During the same period, aquaculture production has skyrocketed from about 0.5 million tonnes to over 1.7 million tonnes. In 2000, out of a total of 2.2 million tonnes of seafood produced in the Middle East, only 22 percent was from aquaculture. By comparison, in 2013, out of a total of 3.6 million tonnes produced, 48 percent was contributed by aquaculture. These figures demonstrate that aquaculture currently plays a significant role in food security within the region. Whilst the main aquaculture producers in the region in 2013 were Egypt (64%), Iran (18.8%) and Turkey (13.5%), the major farmed species were tilapia, carps, mullets, salmonids, European seabass, seabream and shrimp. Notably, fish export and import in the Middle East will further expose the potential role of aquaculture in the region. In 2011, the ME imported 1,859,662 tonnes of seafood and exported only 364,389 tonnes. Therefore, overall production in the region is much lower than consumption, and at 34 percent the deficit is huge. Countries like Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and The United Arab Emirates (UAE) import substantial amounts of seafood. Once again, the evidence suggests that aquaculture is likely to be the main alternative to fill this gap within the ME. Per capita, consumption of seafood for the Middle East has sharply increased over the past few decades. For example, when excluding the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the average consumption per capita, is about 10kg per year. When taking these countries into consideration, this value increases to about 14kg per year. With the exception of a few countries however, aquaculture in the ME is faced with several challenges and constraints primarily including consumer preference for wild-caught rather than farmed seafood because public perception is that wild products are, fresher, tastier, healthier and altogether more natural than farmed ones. Another constraint on the production of aquaculture within many ME
58 | September | October 2016 - International Aquafeed