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In early 2017, Qatar's total population was 2.6 million: 313,000 Qatari citizens and 2.3 million expatriates

Qatar seeks to boost development of fish farming industry

QATAR
Thursday, November 21, 2019, 05:10 (GMT + 9)

Qatar's ambitious self-sufficiency policy forecasts growth in the local production of fish to meet 90% of the country's annual need by 2023.

Nested at the edges of a remote plain in the outskirts of Al Khor, a newly constructed USD 65 million scientific institution stands at the forefront of Qatar's upcoming aquaculture industry.

Due to open early 2020, the Aquatic Fisheries and Research Centre targets an annual production of 2.4 million half-subsidised fingerlings in order to supply commercial aquafarms which expect to produce up to 7,000 tons of marine fishes and shrimps a year.

Marine scientist Catherine Minot stands next to her biosecurity supervisor, Mohamed at the Aquatic Fisheries and Research Centre, a Qatari public institution located in Ras Matbakh to develop a full-fledged aquaculture sector (Photo: Sebastian Castelier)

Additionally, the institution leads researches on how best to adapt the latest technologies to the farming of local species, whilst a consultancy office contracted by the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) carries out experiments on economic feasibility.

Qatar's annual fish consumption of 22.3 kg per capita outreaches the production capacities of local fisheries, which have nevertheless tripled in volume over the past two decades.

To safeguard its fish reserves from depletion, Qatar enforces a ban on trawlers, stopped issuing new fishing licenses and imposes 'a ceiling on fish catch from the sea' at 14,000 tons a year.

In this context, representatives of the Fish Wealth Department at the MME believe aquafarming to be, with importations, 'the only way' to cover an increasingly growing demand for seafood products as the population has quadrupled since 1999.


Off-shore floating cages
    
In the northern sector of Qatar's waters, a project launched in December 2017 by Al Qamra Holding Group develops offshore floating cages with an ambition to produce 2,000 tons of marine fishes shortly.

In the years to come, two additional farms for fishes and one for shrimps are expected to be launched too, yet, to date, commercial production has not started.

Set to complement importations and traditional fisheries in the medium term, Qatar's aquacultural sector focuses on fish fattening, a process which consists of feeding fingerlings supplied by the Aquatic Fisheries and Research Centre until they reach optimal market size.

For the first time in Qatar, the Fish Farming project involving floating  cages in the sea will be established in the collaboration with the government of Qatar according to the Qatar Strategic Vision 2030 concerning Food Security. (Photo: Al Qamra Holding Group)
    
A report foresees a reduction of seafood imports in the Gulf countries while the regional fishing industry is 'expected to grow' by more than seven percent a year between 2018 and 2024.

Aware that aquafarming has triggered conflict with local fisheries in some parts of the world, Qatari authorities have reached out to fishermen to 'explain the importance of aquafarming' at a time when 'more than 85 percent' of popular fish in the Arabian Gulf have gone extinct, Inside Arabia reports.

In return, the Aquatic Fisheries and Research Centre has agreed to periodically release fingerlings into the territorial waters to repopulate depleting stocks. Similar fish stock enhancements already took place from 1998 to 2000, in 2002 and 2009.

In may 2017 the Public Works Authority ‘Ashghal’ announces completion of the construction works of Aquatic Fisheries and Research Centre in Ras Matbakh. (Photo: ashghal.gov.qa)

In agreement with local fishermen, Qatar's aquaculturists will breed local species, such as silvery black porgy, yellow-finned sea bream, white-spotted spine foot and orange-spotted grouper.

"Local species are the way to go," emphasises the Director of the aquaculture programme at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Aaron A. McNevin, in an interview with The New Arab.

Yet, consumers remain concerned over the possible use of growth hormones by fish farms. MME officials offer reassurance that growth hormones and some antibiotics are banned in Qatar, in line with international best practices.

In the meantime, Qatar has announced a partnership with a UK aquatic centre to 'develop legislation for regulating fish farming'.

Author: Sebastian Castelier / The New Arab (Read the entire article here)

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