ANALYSIS - Speaking about North Africa's place in aquaculture, Izzat Fedi, former head of the Fish Utilisation and Marketing Service of the FAO, stated that although N. Africa has potential for sustainable aquaculture growth, there are constraints that need to be overcome first, writes Lucy Towers, TheFishSite Editor.
The N. African area currently relies on its capture fishing sector more than aquaculture for its fish and shellfish. In 2011, 1,486,890 tonnes came from the capture sector, whilst only 998,827 came from aquaculture, said Mr Fedi, speaking at the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) GOAL conference in Paris, France, last week.
The majority (98.8 per cent) of the aquaculture production in 2011 came from only one country in the region - Egypt - which produced 986,820 tonnes.
Egypt is the world's eight largest farmed fish producer and the biggest in Africa. Its 71 fish farming operations are mainly dotted along the river Nile and in the Gulf of Suez, with only a tiny 0.8 per cent of operations being marine based.
Most fish produced is for local consumption as aquaculture has helped to raise per capita consumption of fish from 8.5 kg a decade ago to 17 kg in 2011 and has provided a source of cheaper protein to poorer families.
After Egypt, Tunisa is the next largest producer in the area, producing 8,126 tonnes in 2011.
Tunisia's farming is mainly comprised of shellfish aquaculture in lagoons and tilapia, sea bream/bass and carp production in marine and inland areas.
Although the country's fish production is still quite small, Mr Fedi noted that Tunisia has the potential to produce far more.
To try and help increase growth, the government has begun a National Master Plan for Aquaculture.
This plan hopes to encourage and provide incentives to build up infrastructure, identify suitable sites for farming and encourage more exports to the EU.
In Libya and Algeria, aquaculture is still in the take of stage with 240 tonnes and 2,244 tonnes respectively produced in 2011. Most of this is from freshwater inland farming.
Lastly, Mr Fedi discussed Morocco. Morocco has a huge capture fishing industry and so its aquaculture sector is still fairly small, with only 1,397 tonnes produced in 2011.
Growth Expected for North Africa
In the future, aquaculture in the North Africa Region as a whole is expected to grow and progress in line with growing demand from a growing population, especially the production of cheaper fish, such as tilapia. Many governments are also starting to put together National aquaculture plans.
With a growing demand from the EU for high value good quality fish, growth can also be expected in the tuna fattening and shellfish industry.
Research is underway in many countries to improve sustainable and environmentally friendly production, such as suitable fish species, the use of aquaponics and the creation of home grown ingredients for fish feed. New international markets for farmed species are also opening up and expanding.
However, for sustainable growth to happen, laws and regulations governing aquaculture need to be strengthened, hatcheries need to be developed so that they provide good quality seed stock year-round and processing plants for value added seafood products need to be established.
With high feed prices, it is also important that research continues into creating sufficient home grown ingredients for specialized fish feeds.
Private investors must also be aware that investment will need to be long term and well funded.
Overall, it was highlighted that aquaculture in N. Africa does have the potential to grow but it will require heavy investment by government and private entities.