1. Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
    1. Summary
    2. History and general overview
    3. Human resources
    4. Cultured species
    5. Practices/systems of culture
  2. Sector performance
    1. Production
    2. Market and trade
    3. Contribution to the economy
  3. Promotion and management of the sector
    1. The institutional framework
    2. The governing regulations
    3. Applied research, education and training
  1. Trends, issues and development
    1. References
      1. Bibliography
      2. Related links
    Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
    The Sultanate of Oman has identified aquaculture as one of the key pillar to diversify its national economy. The overall vision of the Ministry of Agriculture & fisheries is to develop a sustainable, competitive and environment-friendly aquaculture sector that meets the needs of customers from the high quality aqua products. The government-scripted legislation regarding aquaculture in 2004 and updated in 2012, and in collaboration with FAO, MAF has developed a national strategy for aquaculture development in 2007. Since 1997, the Ministry of Fisheries Wealth has been engaged in Different research and development projects on fish and shellfish culture. These included the investigations on abalone hatchery, mussel and oyster culture, shrimp farming and pilot trials on cage and pond culture of finfish, suitable site selection for aquaculture, development of feed for cultured aquatic animal, hatchery development for finfish, sea cucumber aquaculture and development of freshwater integrated tilapia farms in Oman and using GIS in selecting suitable sites for aquaculture. At present, there are several funded projects that include: (i) abalone aquaculture which aims to develop novel hatchery technologies and to examine the potential of enhancing the natural fishery; (ii) sustainable aquaculture development in Musandam Governorate; (iii) a Geographic Information System (GIS) based approach, which concentrate on the use GIS as a tool for selecting the suitable sites for cage aquaculture in Musandam Governorate; (iv) development of marine cage demonstration farm in Musandam, which focus on the development of small demonstration cage farms for local fishermen association in Musandam; (v) development of feed ingredients for aquaculture sector; and (vi) second phase of the project for development of integrated tilapia aquaculture.

    Experience gained from Ministry-funded projects and subsequent technology transfer has stimulated entrepreneurial interest in commercial aquaculture ventures. Currently, there are two commercial aquaculture projects in Oman and these are the Indian white prawn (Penaeus indicus) culture project and gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) cage culture. In addition to this aquaculture facilities, there are many applications for establishing commercial aquaculture projects for shrimp, marine cages and Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS). For integrated freshwater aquaculture in Oman, there are 21 integrated tilapia farms that were established at the end of 2013 by a local farmer with the support from the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries. There is also one private hatchery for tilapia. In 2012, MAF started the implementation of the national strategy for sustainable development of Aquaculture 2012-2040. The main aim of this strategy is to reach an aquaculture production of 200 thousand tonnes.

    As result of this strategy many initiatives have been developed by MAF including: (i) Atlas for suitable sites for aquaculture; (ii) establishment of Aquaculture committee; (iii) establishment of aquaculture centre for researches; (iv) establishment of the Directorate of aquaculture development for investment opportunities and monitoring; (v) drafting investment guidelines for aquaculture development in Oman; and (vi) elaboration of environmental best management practices manual.
    History and general overview
    Aquaculture in Oman began in 1986 with a production trial of the giant tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) conducted in a private farm in the Al-Sharqiyah South Region, Sur. However, this venture was halted prematurely by some technical difficulties. As a result, the Government became aware of the sector's need to improve the utilization of the country's natural fishery resources as means of livelihood hence, the establishment of the Aquaculture Laboratory at the Marine Sciences and Fisheries Centre (MSFC). Determination of suitable sites for aquaculture is very important for the success of the commercial aquaculture projects. Therefore, Aquaculture laboratory conducted two projects for determination of these sites along the Omani coast (Gindy, A., 1999 and Al-Yahyai, D et.al, 2004). For shrimp, the Aquaculture laboratory conducted a research project aiming to study the possibility of using the local shrimps (Penaeus indicus) and (P. Semisulcatus) for aquaculture project. The project tested the hatchery techniques for this species and small growing experiment using cement ponds were conducted (Gindy. A. et al., 2000 a and b). The Aquaculture laboratory conducted also research project on finfish cage culture using two species, European seabream (Sparus aurata) which is exotic and Silvery Black Seabream (Acanthopagrus cuveiri) which is local. The project was successful and results were encouraged (Al-Qasmi, A et al., 1998). Other researchers conducted included local abalone (Haliotis mariae) hatchery (Al-Rashdi, 2008), seacucumber aquaculture (Al-Rashdi et al., 2007), hatchery techniques for grouper (Cephalopholis hemistiktos) and goldlined seabream (Rhabdisargus sarba) (MAF, 2011). As the outcomes of these research activities were encouraging, two privately operated commercial cage farms belonging to the Quriyat Aquaculture Company were established. These cage farms produced the gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) as major species and the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and yellowfin seabream (Acanthopagrus latus) as minor cultured species. The total production of this farm increased from 352 in 2003 to 516 in 2004. The last production from this company was in 2006 of about 114 tons. In 2007, the production of shrimp start from the only current commercial shrimp farm in Oman. The production from this farm increased from 85 ton in 2007 to 350 ton in 2013 (MAF, 2014). The production of Tilapia increased from 5 ton in 2014 to 77 ton in 2017.
    Human resources
    There are two departments involved directly in aquaculture in the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, Department of Aquaculture Development and Aquaculture Centre. For the first one, the total employee is 12 Omani from different education levels. For aquaculture centre, the total number of staff is 18 from different education levels. For the private sector, the only shrimp farm in Oman has employed 54 persons and the marine cage farm has 17 employees.
    Cultured species
    The government gives priority to species for aquaculture that are endemic to Omani waters. However, exotic species with high aquaculture potentials are strictly screened for consideration. Current research on the breeding and seed production of grouper yellowfin hind (Cephalopholis hemistiktos), goldlined seabream (Rhabdisargus sarba), sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra) and the Omani abalone (Haliotis mariae), carries the objectives of developing the technology and sharing knowledge on the controlled propagation of these four indigenous species. Preliminary results on the commercial farming these species have shown their best aquaculture potentials (Ibrahim, 2010, and Fermin et al. 2010). Common carp, (Cyprinus carpio) and the Giant river prawn, (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) have been introduced recently and are now the subject of experimental investigations dealing with broodstock development, seed production, and grow-out farming techniques. Amongst the species commercially farmed in Oman were introduced species, namely the gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) and the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax). Gilthead seabream was the subject of research by the aquaculture laboratory in 1997 and proven to be economically viable for marine cage farming. The European seabass and thin lip grey mullet (Liza ramada) however, were introduced by the Quriyat Aquaculture Company in 2001. These species were farmed in response to their importance and value on the export market. With assistance from the Government, the company also began to farm two local endemic species, the yellowfin seabream (Acanthopagrus latus) and orange-spotted grouper (Epinephelus coioides) which were imported from private hatcheries in Kuwait. Experimental trials on the hatchery and grow-out farming of Indian white prawn (Penaeus indicus) and P. semisulcatus have been conducted with so much promising results. For freshwater aquaculture, the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) is now popularly farmed in many areas in Oman. This is in response to a high demand mainly from expatriates living in the country. The tilapia fry were produced locally in a specialised tilapia hatchery. Small-scale Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) farming is now a widespread activity in different areas of Oman. The majority of the production is consumed locally and valued about 6 USD per Kg in local market.

    Species of Concentration

    There are a number of species of finfish that are of interest from food and non-food perspectives. Fish of commercial merit include breams and basses, groupers and cobia, as well as mullet, rabbitfishes and others that are indigenous to Omani waters. Hatchery technologies for many of these species, and or their close relatives, already exist, although in some instances considerable improvements in larval survival are required (e.g., various grouper and cobia). Several ornamental species are of high value and this is especially the case for Omani clownfish, various species of butterfly and angelfish, as well as seahorses. Crustaceans of relevance include the Indian white shrimp and potentially certain species of crab and the indigenous species of edible lobster including the slipper lobster. There may be also one or two species of highly coloured ornamental reef shrimp but this remains an unknown. The native abalone Haliotis mariae, is the singularly most important molluscan of concern, mainly due to its apparent scarcity and social and commercial importance. Nevertheless, other species, such as the pearl oyster, mussel and clams may also offer potential for cultivation. Sea cucumbers, sea urchins and perhaps Nereid and lug worms represent other invertebrates that may have latent food and biomedical promise. Freshwater species include the giant river prawn, Macrobrachium rosenbergii, which can be polycultured with tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and common carps Cyprinus carpio.
    Practices/systems of culture
    The main culture systems practised in Oman are the following:

    shrimp farming The shrimp farm owned by Bentoot Seafood Products is located in the Al-Wusta Governorate in the Wilyat Mahout. The Bentoot shrimp farm is presently the only operational facility in the country. The targeted species for culture is the white shrimp Penaeus indicus. The site used by the farm, which has an area of 150 hectare, was rented from the Government, commencing 28/09/2005. The company started infrastructure construction in 2006 and farming commenced in early 2007. The first harvest was hauled during the last quarter of 2007. The second harvest was taken in October 2008. Their current production is between 170 and 250 ton of shrimp per year. The operation also possesses its own hatchery to the east of the facility.

    Integrated farming systems. The freshwater culture of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) is practiced in various areas in Oman, in particular in the northern part of the country. This type of aquaculture is carried-out in small farms where high levels of saline groundwater prevent or reduce normal agriculture activities. The tilapia was originally introduced by the Ministry of Health to control mosquitoes. As a result of the adaptability of this species to the environment their numbers increased and local people began to rear tilapia on their farms. There are 21 integrated tilapia farms in Oman which is expected to produce 36 ton/year.
    Sector performance
    Commercial fish production in Oman began in 2003. Total production increased from 352 tonnes in 2003 to 514 tonnes in 2004, with the production of gilthead seabream representing 89 percent of the total. In 2004, aquaculture production was valued at USD 2.5 million compared to USD 1.5 million in 2003. The gilthead seabream represented about 82 percent of the total production value. Production of shrimp start from 2007 with total production of 85 ton. From 2007 until date, shrimp dominate the aquaculture production as the production from finfish stop in 2007. The total production in 2016 was 103 ton.
    There are currently 21 integrated tilapia farms, one shrimp farm in Oman and one marine cage farm. The production of tilapia was 3 tonnes in 2013, 5 tonnes in 2014, 20 tonnes in 2015, 30 tonnes in 2016 and 77 tonnes in 2017.

    The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Oman according to FAO statistics:

    Market and trade
    The majority of aquaculture production in 2017 was sold in the local markets as fresh shrimp and tilapia.
    Contribution to the economy
    The quantity and value of aquaculture production is still small compared to the contribution from capture fisheries. However, contribution from aquaculture towards the national economy is seen to increase in the nearest future as the sector progresses. Small-scale aquaculture production also contributes in terms of providing livelihood and income for local communities.
    Promotion and management of the sector
    The institutional framework
    There are three department in the Ministry of Agriculture & fisheries that are dealing with aquaculture. Each department has certain role in the sector depending on the nature of its work.

    Aquaculture Center, that is in the General Directorate of Fisheries Researches, is responsible for conducting scientific research dealing with all aspects of marine and freshwater aquaculture. The Center also provides scientific and technical advice to the Other departments in the ministry on aquaculture and related topics.

    Directorate of Aquaculture Development. This newly department was established in 2013 in the General Directorate of Fisheries Development. It includes One-Stop Shop for aquaculture which receive the applications and liaise with different governmental authorities to process the applications. This Department is also responsible for monitoring of aquaculture projects and it is focal point with other the other two centres involved in the monitoring process.

    Fish Quality Control Centre. The Centre was established in 1998 to ensure the quality of exported fish. The Centre has a department responsible for ensuring the quality of fish products. A second department is responsible for ensuring that companies comply with existing hygienic and quality assurance norms and regulations including the application of an appropriate HACCP system. Companies wishing to invest in aquaculture are required to obtain a quality control number from the Centre after meeting the conditions outlined in its quality regulations.

    Aquaculture Committee. This Committee is responsible for the final approval of the applications received from the private sector, it is chaired by the Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries and is composed of representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Ministry of Environment & Climate affairs, the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Trade and Commerce, the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Finance. Other areas of responsibility include the determination of appropriate sites for each application and monitoring the development of the projects.
    The governing regulations
    The main law governing aquaculture in Oman is the Law of Fishing and Protection of Living Aquatic Resources; this was first issued in 1982, amended in 1993 and is under revision once again in order to reflect current developments in the fisheries sector. Within the framework of this law there are various executive by-laws issued to enhance its implementation. The two main by-laws relevant to aquaculture, are:

    • The by-law on fish quality control (Ministerial decision No.136/1998).
    • The by-law on aquaculture and related quality control (Ministerial decision No. 177/2012).

    The executive by-law for aquaculture and quality control of cultured organisms contains 80 articles on different aspects including licensing, quarantine procedures and quality issues. According to the law, a company cannot undertake aquaculture operations without permission from the competent authority. Other areas covered by this law include:

    • Quarantine procedures and introduction control of exotic species.
    • Terms of reference of the Aquaculture Committee and procedures for handling private investment applications.
    • Environmental protection and environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements.
    • Quality and hygiene farm requirement regulations.
    • Use of feed and drugs (includes list of approved products and treatments).
    • Export regulations for aquaculture product.
    • Request to land lease.

    In addition to the main law of Fishing and Protection of Living Aquatic Resources there are some environmental laws and regulations that relate to the aquaculture sector and which are managed by the Ministry of Environment & Climate Affairs. These include:

    • Royal Decree No. 114/2001 issuing the Law on Conservation of the Environment and Prevention of Pollution.
    • Ministerial Decision No. 187/2001 organizing the Issuance of Environmental Approvals and the Final Environmental Permit.
    • Ministerial Decision No. 7/84 issuing regulations concerning the Disposal of Liquid Effluent to the Marine Environment.
    • Royal Decree No. 46/95 issuing the Law of Handling and Use of Chemicals.
    For more information on aquaculture legislation in Oman please click on the following link:
    National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Oman
    Applied research, education and training
    The Aquaculture Center is the state institution responsible for conducting applied and scientific research in the field of aquaculture and related areas. It is also responsible for setting the country's research priorities in aquaculture. Good cooperation in training and research has been established with the only private aquaculture companies currently operating in Oman.

    The Ministry of Manpower has established a Vocational College for Marine Sciences in Al-Khaboura in North Al-Batinah Governorate. The college was opened in 2007. Along with other fisheries specialization It also offers a Diploma with two- years aquaculture courses for high school graduates. The Department of Marine Sciences and Fisheries at Sultan Qaboos University also offers bachelor, master and post-graduate degree programme in marine sciences and fisheries including aquaculture.
    Trends, issues and development
    The establishment of the Aquaculture Center by the Ministry of Fisheries Wealth will enable the Omani government to cope up with the expected expansion in the aquaculture sector. The new Center houses all the necessary research laboratory facilities to ensure that relevant investigations in aquaculture and related fields are carried out for the benefit of the sector.

    In 2011, Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries (MAF) developed the strategy for aquaculture development 2011-2030. This strategy was based on several studies conducted by the MAF in cooperation with FAO such as aquaculture master plan conducted in 2007, food safety and environment in aquaculture and consultation with different experts. The main objectives of this strategy are:

    • Developing aquaculture in a sustainable manner using modern technology such as GIS and ecosystem based management.
    • Developing the local communities and increase their participation in the projects.
    • Encouraging the Small and Medium enterprise.
    • Increase the fisheries production through the increasing of aquaculture production. Annual growth 20 percent.
    • Attracting and encouraging the foreign investment through public incentives.

    Sustainable aquaculture in Oman can be achieved through environmentally and socially responsible utilization of the country's natural resources through the cooperation of the private sector. For this reason, MAF published Code of best practice for the aquaculture sector is seen as an important step forward. The code sets the guidelines on site and species selection, business planning as well as proper farm management. It also serves as the link to the existing government regulations in order to ensure proper interaction with the environment. The Government in fact recognises the importance of an environmental monitoring programme which includes surveillance, monitoring and reporting systems on aquaculture activities.

    Diseases are a major risk in the aquaculture industry and therefore the Ministry of Fisheries Wealth fully understands the importance of a disease prevention plan. Oman is currently free from diseases associated with aquaculture, however the Government intends to invest in the skills and infrastructure necessary in dealing with such circumstances should any problem arise. A disease prevention plan will encourage investments in the sector and reduce the introduction of disease.

    More applied research in various areas of aquaculture is still required in order to promote the development of the sector. Future areas of research will likely focus on the (i) selection of local species suitable for aquaculture; (ii) on environmental monitoring; (iii) health and disease control and, (iv) on enhancing the legal and administrative framework.
    Al-Qasmi, A., Al-Farsi, I., Gindy. A., Al-Busaidi, Y. & A. Al-Mazroai. 1998. Finfish cage culture demonstration project: Final report. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. 20 pp.
    Al-Rashdi, K.M. 2008. Abalone, Haliotis mariae (Wood, 1828), hatchery and seed production trials in Oman. Agricultural and Marine Sciences, 13:53-63
    Al-Rashdi, K. M., S. S. Al-Busaidi and I. H. Al-Rassadi. 2007. Status of the sea cucumber fishery in the Sultanate of Oman. SPC Beche-de-mer Information Bulletin #25 – February 2007.pp.17-21
    Al-Yahyai, D.S., Mevel, J.Y., Al-Farsi, I., AL-Farsi, E., & Y. Al-Ruqishi. 2004. General Introduction to suitable sites for aquaculture in Oman. Agriculture and Fisheries Research Bulletin 1(5): 5-10
    FAO. 2005. Aquaculture production, 2004. Yearbook of Fishery Statistics - Vol.96/2. Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.
    Fermin, A.C., M. Balkhair & Ali Al-Musheki. 2010. Breeding and Seed Production of the Omani abalone, Haliotis mariae (Wood 1828). A final report submitted to Fisheries Research Center-Salalah, General Directorate of Fisheries Research, Ministry of Fisheries Wealth, Salalah, Dhofar, Sultanate of Oman. 32pp. (Unpublished report)
    Gindy, A. 1999. Planning for future mariculture development in the Sultanate of Oman. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. 113 pp.
    Gindy, A., Al-Busaidi, Y., Rajakumar. T., Kagoo, I., Al-Farsi, E., Al-Ruquishi, Y. & F. Al-Kindy. 2000a. Experimental Shrimp and Shellfish Culture in Sultanate of Oman: Final report: Part 1: Shrimp culture. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. 38 pp.
    Gindy, A., Al-Busaidi, Y., Rajakumar. T., Kagoo, I., Al-Farsi, E., Al-Ruquishi, Y. & F. Al-Kindy. 2000b. Experimental Shrimp and Shellfish Culture in Sultanate of Oman: Final report: Part 2: Shellfish culture. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. 38 pp.
    Ibrahim, F.S. 2004. Reproductive biology of wild goldlined seabream, Rhabdosargus sarba, captive breeding and larval development in the Sultanate of Oman. PhD thesis, University of Stirling, Scotland, U.K, 344p.
    Ibrahim, F.S. 2010. The effect of variable incubation temperatures on hatchability and survival of goldlined seabream, Rhabdosargus sarba (Forsskal, 1775) larvae. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, 65:1153-1156.
    MAF. 2011. Aquaculture Researches and development in the Sultanate of Oman. Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries.
    MAF. 2014. The Fisheries Statistics Books 2013. Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries
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