By Issam Krouma, 22/09/2010 | .mp3, 6.01 MB | 1117 views |
Programme: Global Conference on Aquaculture 2010
Fish farming in the Near East and North Africa Region has been practiced for centuries; however, modern aquaculture started in the late 1920s and expanded considerably over the last three decades. Despite the modest production output from the region, aquaculture increased fourfold in the last decade from almost 198,000 tonnes valued at US$ 496 million in 1998 to just under 850,000 tonnes valued at US$ 1,927 million in 2007. The main driving forces responsible for the expansion of the sector have included an increased public health awareness and interest in fish products, the passing of enabling policies driven by the need for consolidating domestic fish supply, compensating for declining capture fishery landings, strengthening the livelihood of rural communities and supporting food security programmes. Governments in the region have played an important role in improving the business environment through financing applied research projects and motivating private enterprises through incentive legislation, securing production inputs, creating soft credit lines and dealing with leasing aquaculture rights in open water bodies.
The region covers an area of about 11.3 million km2 with an estimated population of 355 million and a density of 31.5 inhabitants/km2. Illiteracy and unemployment are comparatively high. Aquaculture has predominantly employed men; however, recent income-generating programmes have focused on supporting opportunities for rural females and their families. Topographically the region is characterised by vast arid areas that occupy over 75 percent of the total land mass, while arable and permanent crops-land make up for less than 6 percent. None of the countries are land-locked, and the combined coastline stretches for 20,100 km. Water in the region is a scarce and valuable resource restricted to two major river systems: the Nile in the African sub-region and the Euphrates-Tigris system in the Asian sub-region.
The top five producers in the region, i.e. Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic contributed 99 percent of the total regional production in 2007. This production was dominated by finfish (98 percent), with Nile tilapia at the top (32 percent), followed by mullets (30 percent), cyprinids (24 percent), rainbow trout (7 percent) and other species (7 percent). Over 68 percent of the production came from brackishwater earth ponds, while yields from freshwater (mainly ponds, rice fields, cages and raceways) and marine (mainly cages) farming practices contributed between 30 and 2 percent, respectively. In terms of species cultured, the majority were finfish (33 species), followed by crustaceans and molluscan bivalves with only three and two species, respectively.
Aquaculture research programmes in the region have focused mainly on production techniques for ubiquitous and valuable species, on productivity enhancement, on nutrition and production of cost-effective feeds and to a lesser extent, on genetic improvements. However, despite research activities being significant in some countries, the region as a whole lags behind in terms of applied research in support of the industry, with often inadequate and ineffective training and extension services to transfer farming know-how and management practices. Regional and international organisations have, however, contributed to the capacity building programmes in the region. These shortcomings have been recognised, and innovative research plans across the region are expected to focus on the needs of the sector, engage private farming operations and address aquaculture diversification using indigenous and commercial species.
Commercial aquaculture operations have increasingly focused on environmentally responsible practices to warrant the proper use and conservation of existing natural resources. In this regard, governments across the region have been enacting regulations and guidelines to ensure a sustainable growth of the sector. With the exception of specialised marine fish feeds, fish feeds are generally manufactured locally, often with some imported components, but always void of antibiotics. Except for experimental farming trials, fish and shrimp seeds are locally produced, mainly from small- and medium-sized hatcheries, or captured from the wild.
Across the region, policies governing the use of freshwater are being revisited to some extent in order to ensure the optimal and rational management of this scarce strategic resource. There is a general tendency to promote, particularly with reference to the use of freshwater, water-saving aquaculture practices (e.g. recirculation systems), as well as strengthening integrated aquaculture systems, to ensure the rational use of natural resources and secure further employment and social wellbeing of rural labour. Strategic support is also being given to the development of mariculture (particularly finfish cage and shrimp farming) through the introduction of technologies, policies and regulations that encourage investment, particularly with regards to licensing and sea leases.
Promotion of an economically sustainable aquaculture industry in the region has been challenging, particularly with regard to freshwater fish farming. Yet the region has a great potential to expand its industry through the employment of suitable and environmentally friendly technologies. Furthermore, mariculture in the region is still at an infant stage; however, in recent years a growing number of commercial shrimp farms and fish cage-farming operations using floating and submerged cages have been established and encouraging new investments. Policy and regulation reforms that have supported aquaculture development over the past decade well reflect the recommendations and strategy of the Bangkok Declaration adopted in 2000 following the Conference on Aquaculture Development in the Third Millennium (20–25 February 2000, Bangkok, Thailand). It appears that the sector will continue to expand, particularly as new technologies are being introduced and institutional capacities are being strengthened.