October 2003


Fish are landed at a large number of landing places in both the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf coasts with industrial landings being centered in Jizan on the southern Red Sea coast and in Dammam in the Arabian Gulf.

On the Arabian Gulf coast, the industrial shrimp fleet is based in Dammam. The main ports of landings for the artisanal fleet, and the number of artisanal vessels operating out of these ports in the Arabian Gulf in 2000 were as follows:

Landing Site

No. of Artisanal Vessels

Al Frea


Al Jubail






Al Zour


Al Qateef






Al Khobar


Other ports


On the Red Sea cost, the industrial fleet is based in al Haffah in the Jizan region. The artisanal fleet is distributed throughout the Red Coast with the majority operating in the Tabuk and Makkah regions. The artisanal fleet lands its catches at a large number of landing sites in the Red Sea with the most important of these (together with the numbers of artisanal vessels utilizing these landing places in 2000) being as follows:

Landing Site

No. of artisanal vessels

Al Haffah


Al Khor






Al Qad


Al Lith


Ras Muhlesin


Al Gunfuthah


Al Birk


Al Wajeh


Al Khurj


Al Hurrah




Al Azeezlah



The main objective of Saudi Arabia's fishery policy is to promote the sustainable productivity of local fish stocks in order to ensure a continuous fresh fish supply. Within this objective, aquaculture has been identified as a major priority with production goals being set at 48 000t (currently 8 000t) in the medium term. Another objective is to satisfy national demand by minimizing the difference between the local fishery production and total fish consumption. As part of these overall policy objectives, protection of the marine environment is also a major Government priority.

Overall strategies

The overall development objectives of the government for the fisheries sectors are:

  • To produce fresh fish for local markets as part of national food security policy.

  • To develop sustainable and responsible fisheries management through stock conservation measures.

  • To improve the economic performance of different fishery sectors through better utilization of the marine environment.

  • To subsidize local fish production supplied from both capture fisheries and aquaculture.

  • To encourage and increase fish supply from aquaculture in order to reduce fishing pressure on local stocks.


Input controls are in place for the industrial shrimp fishery where the number of vessels is limited, while mesh size regulations, size limits and closed areas and seasons are imposed on the artisanal sector. Various closed areas in both the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf are also in place for shrimp and fish species. However, enforcement of these regulations is weak and illegal fishing is common. There are no controls on outputs and no fishery is managed under a quota or ITQ system.

Legislation and related Regulations are introduced, enforced, and regulated by the Fisheries Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry also has an enforcement office to control and enforce the management measures although actual enforcement is performed by the Coast Guard and other marine agencies.

The Ministry also collects landings statistics as well as collating import and export data and sociological data on fishermen.

The main management measures in place for both the shrimp fishery and the finfish fishery in the Kingdom include:

  • Closed seasons for shrimp fishing in the Arabian Gulf (variable but currently from January 1 to August 1 each year) and in the Red Sea from March 1 to August 1;

  • Minimum mesh sizes for shrimp trawl nets. In the artisanal fishery, the minimum cod-end mesh size for shrimp trawlers is 30mm;

  • Closed seasons for important coral reef species of grouper in the Red Sea;

  • Mesh size restrictions for gill nets in both the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. Minimum mesh size for fixed gill nets is 80mm. Nylon and multi-layered gill nets are prohibited;

  • Provision of soft loans for the development of the traditional fishing sector including loans for engine purchase, upgrading fishing equipment etc.;

  • Temporary suspension on the issue of new fishing licenses;

  • Establishment of marine protected areas in both the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.

In addition, a number of coastal environment rehabilitation projects have been undertaken, including replanting mangroves in both Red Sea and Arabian Gulf areas and releasing of fry of sea bream and grouper for restocking purposes.
The industry, particularly the artisanal fishery, receives significant Government subsidies in the form of soft loans, grants and other assistance.

In 2002, the Government introduced additional restrictions in the Eastern Province of the Arabian Gulf aimed at controlling fishing effort and enhancing the employment opportunities for nationals in the industry. These included:

  • The mandatory requirement that at least one Saudi be employed in every boat that is 12 meters long or more;

  • A freeze on the issuing of new licenses for shrimp fishing so that annual licenses are restricted to boat owners who are already in the business;

  • A regulation that boat owners can only sell their fishing boats after two years from when their licenses are issued;

  • A vessel reduction and consolidation program whereby vessel owners are permitted to license new vessels of 12m or more only by canceling the licenses of two smaller boats.

The regulations were partly in response to the major decline in the number of Saudi nationals employed in the fishing industry in the Arabian Gulf Provinces. This is a different situation than at least some of the Red Sea areas (e.g. Farasan Islands) where the majority of fishermen are Saudi nationals. The immediate impact of the initiatives was that Saudi Border Guards prevented 450 boats from fishing after the introduction of the new regulations


Within the artisanal sector, Saudi nationals individually own most vessels although the vast majority of crew are foreign workers. This is particularly the case in the Arabian Gulf area.

The largest operator in the industrial sector is Saudi Fisheries Company, which was established in 1980 (1401H) as a joint stock company, according to Royal Decree No. M/7 of 1979. The Company was established with a fully paid capital of SR 100,000,000 (One Hundred Million Saudi Riyals) with 40% contributed by the Government and the remaining 60% raised from the private sector.

The Company was established to develop investment opportunities in fishing and aquaculture production together with the manufacturing and sale of seafood both locally and in the International market.

The Company's Head-office and primary processing plants is located in Dammam and another plant based in Jizan. SFC also operates processing and distribution depots in Riyadh and Jeddah. The Company also has cold stores at Dammam, Jizan, Jeddah and Riyadh having a total storage capacity of 4,000 tons.

The company operates a fleet of industrial vessels with on-board processing, fish and shrimp aquaculture farms, land-based processing plants, retail and wholesale shops throughout the Kingdom and is a major exporter of fresh and processed fish and fish products.


Production from wild capture fisheries has remained steady at around 47,000-50,000t per annum since 1986. Also exports have remained at around 2,200-2,400t, since 1996 of which about 20% is shrimp. Imports have risen steadily to meet increasing demand from 58,300t in 1996 to 89,076t in 2001. This is an increase of 52% in 5 years. Aquaculture production, mainly of tilapia and shrimp, is increasing and in 2001, was 8 018t or 5.6% of total fish supply. However, this production has not increased fast enough to fill the gap between increasing local demand and the supply from wild capture fisheries. Despite this, the Government's projection is that aquaculture production will reach about 48 000t (33% of total current supply) within the foreseeable future as a result of new aquaculture developments that are coming on stream.

With a high population growth, it is therefore likely that imports will continue to grow (although perhaps at a slower rate) despite the rapid advances being made in the aquaculture sector.


The basic laws governing fisheries in the Kingdom include a number of Decrees that relate to specific fisheries issues rather than a single all-encompassing policy and regulatory framework. Among the more important Decrees are:

Royal Decree No. M/7 of 1979

Royal Decree No. 4 of 1981

Royal Decree No. 9 of 1986

Royal Decree No. 11 of 2002

In addition, there are a number of Decrees relating to the protection of the marine environment, both in the Red Sea and the Gulf that impact on fisheries, particularly those that establish marine parks or other Marine Protected Areas.


The authority responsible for fisheries management in Saudi Arabia is the Ministry of Agriculture, which, in addition to fisheries, is responsible for agriculture, forestry and water resources in the Kingdom.

The Fisheries Affairs Directorate of the ministry is the main organization responsible for fisheries although environmental agencies do have a co-operative role to play, particularly in coastal development issues.
The structure of the Ministry of Agriculture is as follows: