Marine aquaculture vital for Oman

May 4, 2011 14:02

MUSCAT: An expert on fisheries has called upon the authorities in Oman to tap the vast potential in marine aquaculture. Phil Cruver, an entrepreneur and president of KZO Sea Farms, believes that Oman, with its 1,700 kilometres of marine coastline, has immense potential for developing marine aquaculture, reports with reference to Oman Times.

Currently, the fisheries sector represents the second source of revenue for Oman but is far behind the oil and gas industry. Fisheries suffer from lack of solid infrastructure, and modern industry technologies, which, with a high level of investment and proper planning, will definitely boost the Omani economy.

According to Phil, "The establishment of a marine aquaculture industry will be an advantage for the Sultanate since it will leverage the scientific knowledge for sustainability to avoid the ecological disasters around the world".

Fishery catches have been declining globally for two decades, and although conservation measures and a shift in consumption patterns could allow some recovery, marine aquaculture holds more potential for sustained growth. Though Oman has seen an increase in catches, there has been some worry over some species which have seen big decline.

Phil, a regular visitor to Oman, observes, "There is a strong commitment from the government to develop this sector in a competitive and sustainable manner in harmony with the social, economic, cultural and historic values of the country. Recently, the 200-mile exclusive economic zone, extending seaward into the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea, is a promising valuable resource for diversifying and augmenting Oman's oil-based economy.

"Oman's coastline too has rich fishing grounds and the fish export business is a significant earner of foreign exchange for the national economy, ranking second after oil exports and first among the non-oil exports." The fisheries sector is expected to contribute around two per cent to the Gross National Product by 2020 compared to 0.6 per cent recorded in 2000.

However, the current average annual catch of around 160,000 tonnes from the Omani Seas is quite low when compared to the estimated marine resources of 5 million tonnes. The industry is impressively large and the growth potential is very promising. It is also vital for the maintenance of the community structure and the economic well-being of more than 200,000 individuals nationwide.

Phil says, "There is immense potential for developing the marine aquaculture industry in Oman. It would provide growth opportunity in the fastest growing global food industry while at the same time it would resuscitate local fish stocks to revive the livelihoods of fisher folks in coastal communities".

Studies show that the global demand for food over the next 40 years is expected to double, requiring under present production technologies, a doubling of water consumption levels to achieve global food security. Furthermore, the chemically fuelled "Green Revolution" has run its course, leaving soil moistures depleted, and unclear climate change patterns promise a looming agricultural water crisis.

Global wild fisheries have reached or exceeded their maximum sustainable harvest; the United Nations is projecting a 40 million tonne seafood shortage by 2030. The $50 billion worldwide marine aquaculture industry - the deliberate farming of ocean species that provides half the world's edible seafood - is the fastest growing form of food production in the world and provides a solution for global food and water security.

Phil adds, "Marine aquaculture has several advantages over traditional capture fisheries. Since cultured fish are kept in a relatively controlled environment, it is possible to monitor production and predict the output and harvest.

This makes it possible to adapt the harvest according to market demand and ensure the right size, quality and volume of the fish at the most opportune time. These factors result in lower production costs and higher profits. Moreover, when properly designed, marine aquaculture is sustainable".

‘Open-ocean' aquaculture is an emerging concept that uses submersible cages deployed in deep water to produce farmed seafood while minimising the environmental footprint
Phil adds, "As far as we know there are no current cage farming operations in Oman because coastal waters in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea are vulnerable to the growing epidemic of Harmful Algal Blooms, or HABs, that produce severe environmental impacts killing marine life.

"KZO Sea Farms has a solution with submersible Open Ocean cages which can be lowered below the growth threshold of toxic HABs or moved to protect the farmed marine crops. The cages can also be submerged to avoid cyclones and devastation from oil spills."

The cages are approximately 340 cubic metres in volume and slightly negatively buoyant so that they settle below the surface in waters ideally between 110 and 130 feet in depth. Inflatable sections on the cage will bring them to the surface or allow them to be submerged in the event of a tropical storm. The smaller cages allow easier harvest from smaller feeding boats, ease of assembly and installation, cheaper moorings, and marine crop diversification.

The cages will be fabricated in Muscat and transported and assembled for subsequent securing into the mooring anchor at the selected offshore grow-out farm site. Juvenile fish will be pumped into nursery net cages suspended inside the cages. They will remain in these net cages for several weeks, prior to being released into the grow-out cages.

Phil sums up, "The marine species we are planning to cultivate in offshore cages - cobia - have about 1,880mg of omega-3s per serving exceeding that of the Atlantic salmon and 100 times that of pangasius and tilapia. "That means that they are healthy and full of nutrition. Furthermore, cobia grow to harvest in half the time of Atlantic salmon and three times faster than seabass and cod".

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