JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, 21 October
2002 -- After 20 years of identifying marine fish and shrimp
that would breed in captivity and creating systems to farm them
profitably, the Government-owned Fish Farming Centre has reason
to celebrate. The private sector is now investing in the nascent
The Saudi Fish Company
at Al-Shaqiq near the southern Red Sea already produces 1 500
tonnes of fish a year. The National Shrimp Company in the
Al-Laith area expects to produce 10 000 tonnes a year soon,
while the Gizan Agricultural Company is building production
facilities for 1 000 tonnes a year.
"Our aim is to reduce the gap between marine
fish production -- Saudi fishing vessels bring in 50 000 tonnes
a year -- and national consumption, which is
tonnes a year," says Mr Salem Al-Thobaiti, the Fish
Farming Centre's manager. "We will achieve this
in line with our national policy: all fish stocks should be
utilized in a sustainable way so that this food resource
won't be depleted."
helped the Fish Farming Centre with technical assistance since
its founding in 1982. Once dependent on European and Asian
experts for field training, the Centre now is completely staffed
by nationals, with 37 Saudi researchers and technicians working
at its 9-hectare site outside the country's largest port
Domestic demand for fish
expected to grow
dwellers in the Arabian Peninsula traditionally prefer lamb, cow
and camel meat, consumers are increasingly attracted to
cholesterol-free and easy-to-digest fish. Fish consumption is
expected to increase from 3 to 9 percent of animal protein
consumed in the country, according to a recent government study.
"Our national policy encourages
the export of farmed fish to neighbouring Arab countries and
Europe. We want the private sector to be competitive with other
aquaculture producers and exporters in South East
Asia," says Mr Al-Thobaiti. "In fact, we want
to expand the Centre, attracting more researchers through better
working conditions and benefits."
Centre innovates constantly
Research is currently underway on the white
shrimp Penaeus Indicus, especially suitable as it is indigenous
and resists disease well. The Centre so far has produced more
than 8 tonnes/hectare/year of it. "They reproduce well
in a limited space, so they are commercially interesting as well
as nutritious", says Mr Al-Thobaiti.
The Centre is pioneering the raising of freshwater
fish, such as the species known locally as boulti, in tanks of
salt water pumped from the nearby Red Sea.
also adapted for local use the "baubab"
fish-growing system, first established in Kenya. Consisting of
rectangular concrete basins for raising fry and large circular
basins for feeding the boulti fish, the system has a capacity of
12 tonnes of fish per year per tank.
Research continues on other marine fish, particularly
on species known locally as Hammour, Nagel and Taradi. Also of
interest are Seajan, which grows fast and can be marketed within
six months, and species like Alarabi, Albream and Alsubeiti.
Since feed constitutes 60 percent of the
cost of fish farming, researchers have developed a low-cost feed
composed of poultry bones, soya bean, maize, barley, vitamins
and minerals. Quality inspection on the feed is carried out
Hygiene for farmed fish
and shrimp is of utmost importance since bacterial diseases and
parasites slow growth and reduce survival rates. The Centre has
developed a monitoring system that helps stop the spread of
diseases. Dr. Salah Mohammad Afifi, head of the diseases
section, praises the system: The Centre has not experienced a
fish epidemic in the past five years.
establishment of the Fish Farming Centre is the fruit of one of
15 agricultural projects undertaken in Saudi Arabia with FAO
assistance since 1964.