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Big Plans for the Development of Oman's Fisheries

25 March 2014

OMAN - Oman's government plans to invest around $1.6 billion into the development of fisheries related infrastructure over the next seven years, to help double the sector's contribution to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

According to a top official of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth, the pledged amount is in addition to the $259 million budgeted towards fisheries development in the current 8th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), reports the OmanDailyObserver.

"The objective of the National Fisheries Development Strategy (2013-2020) is to enhance the fisheries sector's contribution to the GDP as well as generate employment opportunities for Omanis. Our aim is to boost fisheries production from the present roughly 200,000 tonnes per year to around 480,000 tonnes by 2020, as well as to generate 20,000 additional jobs during this period," said Dr Hamed al Aufi, Under-Secretary for Fisheries Wealth.

Speaking at the Oman Economic Forum last week, he said the national strategy was compiled on the basis of international policies and best practices advocated by the World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The two-day forum, organised by Al Iktissad Wal Aamal Group, was held under the patronage of Darwish bin Ismaeel al Balushi, Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs. "By 2020, we estimate direct returns from fishing and fish processing activities to climb from RO 369.6 million today to RO 739.2 million in 2020 after factoring in value addition, direct job creation, and the multiplier effect of such activities in generation indirect jobs as well," he stated in a presentation on his Ministry's strategy for developing this vital sector.

At the heart of the strategy, the Under-Secretary explained, are four broad objectives: Development of fishery ports, fishing fleet, fish markets and related infrastructure; development of exports and overseas markets; improvement of fish processing and value addition activities; and the growth of a strong aquaculture industry.

Importantly, the investment strategy is expected to contribute to a major ramp-up of the country's primary fisheries infrastructure, he said. A total of nine new fishery harbours, including three that are presently under tendering, are expected to be added to the network of 21 fishing ports currently in operation at key locations along the Sultanate's lengthy coastline. Major investment will also be made in the establishment of a wholesale fish market, as well as regional fish souqs, he said.

Furthermore, the National Fisheries Development Strategy is designed to provide strong impetus to private investment in this promising industry.

"This strategy provides a model for a partnership between the public and private sectors. The government is keen to play its part in this partnership by investing in infrastructure between 2014 and 2020, which we hope will pave the way for the private sector to step in thereafter. Once we achieve our goal of accelerating growth in the industry, we hope to begin privatising some elements of the sector."

Dr Al Aufi listed a number of areas for private investment in Oman's fisheries sector, an industry that currently sustains the livelihoods of around 40,000 Omanis. They include opportunities relating the development and operation of boatyards, marine construction activities, operation and management of fishing fleets, fish processing and value added activities, logistics and storage, activities related to the trade and export of fish, supply of fishing gear, equipment and spare parts, ice production, fish feed for aquaculture, hatcheries, supply of technology, diving services providers, fish farm operation, and consultancy and training services.

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