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Mega plans set to boost Oman's fisheries sector.

MUSCAT: Cashing in on the growing demand for fish in the country and outside it, Oman has unleashed a slew of growth-oriented programmes to further consolidateA the fisheries sector.

From exploiting the huge amount ofA mackerels and sardines in the Arabian Sea and other demersal resources to opening and upgrading of new fishing harbours, the fisheries sector is expected to get a big boost.

Talking to Times of OmanA Dr Hamad bin Said Al Aufi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth,A said that Oman has developed plans to exploit the 1 million tonnes of sardines and mackerels in the Arabian Sea.

Hamad, who has brought in sweeping changes in the sector, said, "The plans include six new fishing ports and upgrading the existing 17 fishing ports, upgrading the fishing fleet and promoting aquaculture".

The six ports include Barka, Musannah, Mahout, Shuwaimiyah, Sadah and RakhyutA and a major one in Duqm.

The fisheries sector is also expected to upgrade fishing markets linked to the central market and providing A the landing facilities in remote areas where harbours are not feasible.

Provision of supply of bigger boats will also be the focus. Hamad said, 'regions like Wusta require bigger boats as the sea is open to the Indian Ocean and prevalence of different weather conditions make it difficult for small boats to operate. So, we are working onA a plan to equip the fishermen with bigger boats'.

Speaking about the role of private sector in the fisheries sector, Hamad said that the development in the sector is a result of solid partnership between the government and the private sector.

He observes, "The fact that there are 60 processing plants, 24 has quality assurance certificates, many ice-producing facilities and fish supply centres speak volumes about the active participation of the private sector in the development ofA fisheries in the Sultanate".

When asked, how important is fisheries sector for Sultanate's economy and society Hamad avers, "Fishing sector is very important for the Sultanate's economy. We have identified four components: Food security, employment generation, economic diversification A and earning of foreign currency and competitiveness in the international market.

"AA healthy fisheries sector is necessary for the food security of the country and also for large-scale employment generation. At present the sector employs 40,000 people including fishermen, fish dealers, transporters, personnel in support services, etc.

A

"Fish is rich in protein, polyunsaturated fatty acid and the omega-3 fatty acid.A Protein plays a key role in the human diet.A Seafood has emerged as a major revenue earner. Suffice to say that how important is the fisheries sector to Oman.A It also helps to A diversify national economy," he said.

Despite its long coastline and boasting of rich marine habitats, Oman's contribution to the global fish trade has not been much.

Dr Hamad explains, "We are trying to promote traditional sector by heavily exploiting all resources and heavily investing in big vessels and to enable the Omani fishermen to upgrade their fishing fleet andA this takes long time. Our mission is to support local Omani fishermen so thatA their fleet is developed over a period of time and see thatA there is anA increase in the landing.

"In 2010 the landing was around 163,000 metric tonnes. Ninety per cent of them produced by local fishermen while only 10 per cent by the companies. We export 50 per cent while the remaining 50 per cent is consumed locally. So naturally, our contribution to global trade is not high."

Talking about the major thrust as far as fisheries sector is concerned in the Eight Five-Year Plan Dr Hamad says, "We have identified four main elements: Infrastructure development, upgrading the fishing fleet, development of fish farming and fish qualityA and value-added product development. The sector has been allocated RO100 million to cover these projects. The government's focus is to make sure that the fisheries sector contributes two per cent to the country's total GDP by 2020 from the present one per cent".

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2011

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:Apr 18, 2011
Words:685
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