Replaces: Arabic version (2006), Spanish version (2006), French version (2006), Chinese version (2006)
Aquaculture is a relatively new and potential source of fish production in the State of Kuwait. It is currently being expanded in order to supplement local landings from capture fisheries. Two types of aquaculture systems are practised in Kuwait: Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) culture in concrete tanks using brackish water on agricultural farms and, culture of gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata), European seabass (Dicentrarcus labrax) and Sobaity seabream (Sparidentex hasta) in cages located in Kuwait Bay.
Tilapia culture is carried out in 56 farms in three areas throughout the country, namely Al-Abdaly, Al-Wafra and Al-Sulybia. Annual average production of tilapia has been recorded as 327 tonnes from the year 2005 to 2008.
Fish culture using marine cages has been carried out in the State of Kuwait since 1992. Marine finfish cage culture is presently being carried out by a Kuwaiti-based shareholding company registed as "Bubiyan Fisheries Company" which was established in 1986.
The actual number of cages currently being used is only a small fraction. The reason for this may be attributed to the unavailability of fish fingerlings, unfavourable market trends and unsuitable environmental conditions. As no hatchery or fish feed production facilities are available within the company, fingerlings of gilthead seabream are mainly imported from Greece, France and other Mediterranean countries. Fingerlings are now also being produced in Kuwait by a newly establisehd company called "Gulf International Aquaculture Company" (GIAC) which uses part of the hatchery unit belonging to the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) on a rental basis. The Government encourages the establishment of aquaculture activities providing a feed subsidy. The subsidies are provided to the sector, as it has been identified as a potential source of seafood to supply the future demand for fish in the State of Kuwait.
Although options for aquaculture development through research have been explored since 1983 by the KISR, aquaculture activities gained momentum in 1990 through the concerted efforts of the Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAFR). In 1992, the Bubiyan Fisheries Company began commercial production of gilthead seabream and sobaity in floating cages in Kuwait Bay. Aquaculture of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) began in 1997 as an integral part of agriculture using brackish water. The establishment of a commercial private hatchery by the GIAC and the tilapia hatchery at Al-Wafra by the PAAFR are an indication of the growing potential for aquaculture production in Kuwait.
In 2008, approximately 170 professional and technical workers were engaged to look after the cage culture activities in Kuwait. The technical staff of the aquaculture division in the Fisheries Department of PAAFR administers aquaculture activities and researchers at the Fisheries and Mariculture Department of KISR are engaged in aquaculture research and development.
Integrated Tilapia culture in agriculture farms
Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) culture is carried out in agriculture farms where crops such as alfa alfa (Medicago sativa), tomatoes, potatoes, onions, etc., are cultivated. The farms are located in the Al-Wafra, Al-Abdaly and Al-Sulybia areas. Concrete tanks are used for tilapia culture. The size of the tanks ranges from few m2 to hundreds of m2 with depths of 1 to 2 m. Most of the tanks are built above ground level to facilitate bottom drainage. Culture is carried out using brackish water with a salinity of 5–8 ppt pumped from underground wells. Each farm has a water reservoir tank. The drained water is used for the irrigation of alfa alfa and other crops. In some farms greenhouse shelters are used to cover the tanks.
The stocking rates vary between ten and 50 fingerlings/m3. Fish attain a marketable size of 350–400 g within six to eight months. Pelleted fish feed is partially supplied by the PAAFR on a subsidy basis. Tilapia culture is carried out on 56 farms and the total volume of the concrete tanks is approximately 39 300 m3. Of the 56 farms, 37 are located in Al-Wafra, 17 in Al-Abdali and two in Al-Sulybia. Annual average production of tilapia from these farms is recorded as 327 tonnes from the year 2005 to 2008. Tilapia species were initially imported from Kenya for aquaculture experimental trials. Tilapia is currently cultured on a commercial-scale. The PAAFR has established a new hatchery at Al-Wafra which supplies tilapia fingerlings to the farmers.
Fish culture in cages
Fish culture in floating cages began in 1992. Although various species have been used, gilthead seabream (S. aurata) and Sobaity seabream (S. hasta) are the most suitable species. The cages operated by the Bubiyan Fisheries Company are located in the Ras Kathmoh Marine Area near Doha Port in Kuwait Bay, where the water depth is approximately 11 m. The company owns 73 floating cages in the Doha area and produces an annual average of approximately 250 tonnes of fish.
Aquaculture production in cages consists mainly of gilthead seabream. The Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research has developed a hatchery unit with the latest infrastructure facilities. Part of the hatchery is used on a rental basis by the private company GIAC. The company produces annually in the region 800 000 fry and exports fingerlings of Sobaity, yellowfin seabream (Acanthopagrus latus) and orange-spotted grouper (Epinephelus coioides) for fish culture in cages.
Aquaculture production in the State of Kuwait consists mainly of two species: Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata). Tilapia was originally introduced for research purposes. The Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research commenced tilapia culture in 1983 on an experimental basis, after the Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources began integrating tilapia culture with alfa alfa. Commercial production of tilapia began in 1997. Gilthead seabream (S. aurata) was introduced from Greece. The commercial production of this Mediterranean species began in 1992 by the Bubiyan Fisheries Company. Fingerlings are now imported primarily from France.
Other cultured species are Sobaity seabream (Sparidentex hasta) and European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax).
Tilapia culture is carried out integrated with agriculture farms using concrete tanks. Brackish water from wells is pumped into the tanks with frequent water exchange. Artificial feed is used and production is in the region of 10 kg/m3. The PAAFR allocates agricultural land to interested farmers. The 25-year land lease is renewable and farmers pay a fee of 150 files/m2 to the Government (1 000 files = 1 Kuwait Dinar = 3.44 USD). The Government is presently considering dividing the farms into two categories: category "A farms" producing 6–10 kg/m3 and, category "B farms" producing below 3 kg/m3. The Government currently provides a subsidy to encourage greater productivity and this consists in a free annual allocation of fish feed: 2.7 kg/m2 of pond area for category "A farms" and, 1.35 kg/m2 for category "B farms". The subsidized feed meets 50 percent of the farmers' requirements. The remainder is imported. Fish feed is purchased in 25 kg bags, costing the Government USD 0.96/kg. The farmers spend as much as USD 1.37/kg for their additional feed requirements. The feed conversion rate in the category "A farms" is approximately 2:1.
Intensive fish culture in cages
The cages used for fish culture were previously square shaped, but are now circular with a diameter of 20 m and 8 m in depth. The annual production target has been fixed at 600 tonnes, which was achieved in 1997. The Government has identified a new site for cage culture at Al-Khiran on the south coast due to algal bloom outbreaks in the Kuwait Bay. Although production has declined, fish culture in cages is continuing through the support of the PAAFR. The Bubiyan Fishing Company, which is involved in fish culture, receives an annual subsidy of KWD 25 000 (1 KWD = 3.44 USD) from the Government.
Aquaculture is now reasonably well-established, as far as the farming of tilapia in association with agriculture, and marine fish culture using floating net cages is concerned. Kuwait aquaculture is economically viable, although fish mortalities in cages during 1999 and 2001 became a serious setback. The annual average production of tilapia from 2005 to 2008 accounts to 327 tonnes.
The Gulf International Aquaculture Company was established in 2003. It commercially produces fish fry, mostly seabream and, to a lesser extent, Sobaity seabream. It purchases fertilized gilthead seabream eggs mainly from France.
The total aquaculture production according to FAO Fishery Statistics data which has been reported from 1950, is as follows:
Due to limited production, there is no specific market system for aquaculture products in Kuwait. However, high quality farmed fresh tilapia is sold at USD 3.42–5.13/kg; this relates mainly to farm-gate purchases and sales to restaurants.
Compared to the oil industry in Kuwait, the economic contribution of the fishery and aquaculture industry is very limited. However, as a traditional sector, Kuwait fishery resources supply fresh fish and offer investment opportunities for Kuwait's private sector. The contribution of aquaculture to the national economy is almost insignificant. Aquaculture activities have gained importance in recent years due to technological farming developments, as well as, hatchery systems. The PAAFR has been encouraging aquaculture activities as a matter of priority and production is expected to meet future local demand for fish.
Aquaculture activities are administered and promoted by the Aquaculture division of the Fisheries Department of the PAAFR. The Fisheries Department regulates all aquaculture activities. This includes the identification of suitable fish and allocation of suitable sites to farmers, issuing licences and granting subsidies to farmers and the Bubiyan Fisheries Company. Furthermore, PAAFR adopts rules and regulations for aquaculture development in Kuwait.
The Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAFR) is the responsible authority for regulating cage fish culture activities in Kuwait. The overall fisheries activities in the State of Kuwait are administered under the law No. 46 established in 1980. In 2005, the PAARF enacted a specific resolution No. 293 for aquaculture development in Kuwait, regarding the issuance of aquaculture licences further enabling tilapia and other fish culture to develop. However, the resolution mainly aims at regulating land-based aquaculture activities. In order to encourage more investment in marine cage culture, the PAARF provides yearly subsidies. Furthermore, the following regulatory measures have been adopted under the resolution for aquaculture activities in Kuwait:
Research into aquaculture development mainly falls under the responsibility of the KISR. Applied aquaculture research projects, including selection of suitable species, growth studies and disease control are carried out by the Mariculture and Fisheries Department of KISR. These projects are financially supported by the PAAFR, along with other funding agencies.
The Zoology Department of the Kuwait University teaches fisheries science as an optional subject at the undergraduate level. Kuwaiti graduates are encouraged to pursue higher studies at reputable institutions in foreign countries. PAAFR also arranges training programmes and offers technical guidance on fisheries and aquaculture to all stakeholders in association with international organizations and expertise.
Aquaculture production represents a wide scope for future development in Kuwait. The country's natural fish stocks are under pressure due to overfishing and capture production has shown a declining trend in recent years. Hence, aquaculture activities are gaining growing support from the Government. Cage aquaculture offers investment and employment opportunities in the future. Recent developments, including the establishment of a marine finfish hatchery facility by the "Gulf International Aquaculture Company" and the Government's tilapia hatchery at Al-Wafra, are potential indicators for future development of aquaculture production in Kuwait. A new site has also been identified on the southern coast of Kuwait where the "Bubiyan Fishing Company" and other companies are likely to establish cages for large-scale marine finfish production. Aquaculture production is expected to meet future demand for fish supplies in Kuwait.
FAO. 2008. Aquaculture production. Year book of Fishery Statistics - Vol.96/2. Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.
Al-Yamani, F., Bishop, J., Ramadhan, E., Al-Husaini, M. & Al-Ghadban, A.N. 2004. Oceanographic Atlas of Kuwait waters. KISR Publication, 203 pp.
Lee, J.W., Farmer, A.S.D. & Al-Bakri, D.H. 1983. A preliminary study on the feasibility of establishing a fish farm at Khor Al-Sabiyah. Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, Report No. KISR–RFP–41, Kuwait.
Statistical Bulletins for 2000 to 2008. Central Statistical Office, Ministry of Planning, State of Kuwait.