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  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
    Summary
    Aquaculture in the Sultanate of Oman is presently at an early stage of development, both in terms of basic or applied research and private sector growth. The government scripted legislation regarding aquaculture in 2004 and in collaboration with FAO has developed a national strategy for aquaculture development in 2007. Since 1997, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth has been engaged in seven major research 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. In addition site selection and feed development projects have been successfully completed. At present, three funded programs are ongoing which include: Abalone aquaculture which aimed to develop novel hatchery technologies and to examine the potential of enhancing the natural fishery, Hatchery development for finfish, which concentrates on the breeding and culture technologies for native species including groupers and sea breams; and Seacucumber aquaculture which investigates the feasibility of artificially producing the seeds and the farming of various species of holothurians while also considering the potential for fishery enhancement and commercial aquaculture production.

    Experience gained from Ministry-funded projects and subsequent technology transfer has stimulated entrepreneurial interest in commercial aquaculture ventures. An outcome of this extension exercise has been the establishment of two private aquaculture companies which concentrated on shrimp and finfish production respectively. The shrimp facility has increased its production capacity with addition of another 100 ha of ponds. Cage culture includes production of gilthead seabream and ranching of yellowfin tuna. Saltwater intrusion along the coastal zone has stimulated interest in the production of tilapia by some small-scale producers. Around twenty applications are presently at various stages of the permitting process. The Aquaculture Centre was granted a development project to develop a small tilapia hatchery in one of the local farm and ten grow-out farms. Through this project the center has employed international experts and technicians to assist in the design of these facilities. Along this also, the Aquaculture Centre is currently designing a model tilapia farm which include hatchery and grow-out . The Aquaculture Center also has imported YY tilapia and GIFT strain fingerlings in the view to produce all male tilapia. This year, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth has completed its Environmental Best Management Practices manual which incorporates guidelines for the production of eco-label and organically certified aquacultured products. Also a book titled “Atlas of suitable sites for aquaculture projects in sultanate of Oman” has been recently published which will facilitate aquaculture industries in selecting the right sites for their interested selected species. Beside this the Ministry also published a booklet on investment guidelines titled “Investment guidelines for aquaculture development in the Sultanate of Oman” in both English and Arabic languages. The role of the Ministry’s Aquaculture Center in supporting the aquaculture sector growth and the future potential of the industry is very well considered. The Ministry has completed recently the review and the approval of the “Aquaculture Bi-law” and it is currently under translation to English.
    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). In 1994, research work on broodstock maturation and seed production of the native abalone Haliotis mariae, locally known as “a’sufailah”, was initiated at the Mirbat Aquaculture Facility in Dhofar. The result of this experiment was promising (Khalfan et al., 2007). Aquaculture and development research in the Sultanate shall be directed towards developing technologies that benefit most the people who are dependent on coastal fishery resources. One important study conducted by Aquaculture Laboratory was the identification of sites suitable for aquaculture development which is crucial to the success of commercial aqua-ventures. The Laboratory also conducted a series of experimental trials that dealt with the hatchery and culture of two indigenous shrimp species Penaeus indicus and P. semisulcatus. A study was conducted on the cage farming of the exotic gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) and a local species, sobaity sea bream (Acanthopagrus cuvieri). As the outcomes of these research activities were encouraging, two privately operated commercial cage farms belonging to the Quriyat Aquaculture Company were established (Al-Qasmi et al., 1998). 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 production of gilthead seabream increased from 331 tonnes in 2003 to 460 tonnes in 2004, while production of European seabass increased from 13 to 27 tonnes. Yellowfin seabream production in 2004 was around 13 tonnes. A further 14 tonnes of the yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) were produced through fattening techniques. The total value of aquaculture production increased from USD 1.6 million in 2003 to USD 2.5 million in 2004. A National review on marine cage aquaculture has been prepared by Al Yahyai, see (FAO, 2009). The review on aquaculture research and development in the Sultanate of Oman in the past years is given in (Al Rashdi et al., 2011).
    Human resources
    Currently, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth’s Aquaculture Center has eight staff members who are directly involved in aquaculture research all of whom are educated in fisheries at graduate and post graduate levels, and four technical support staff with either fisheries and aquaculture background. With the establishment of the new Aquaculture Center, the number of researchers and technical support staff shall be increased. The Aquaculture Center also employed three international consultants, nutritionist, senior consultant and tilapia breeding and grow-out in oder to assist in the development of this sector in the country. Beside this, there are two international technicaHuman resource development and capacity building are currently being worked out by the Ministry in order to achieve its goals.
    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 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 et al., 2005, 2010, Ibrahim et al., 2012, Al Rashdi et al. 2010, Ibrahim, 2011, Al Rashdi, 2012 and Fermin et al. 2010). Freshwater carp, Cyprinus carpio and the freshwater 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 shrimps 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 imported from Egypt and Thailand. 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 3-6 USD per Kg in local market.

    Species of Concentration
    There exist 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 angel fish, 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 of 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 farm has a total of 26 ponds with cultured area of 86 ha (8 nos. × 1 ha, 4 nos. × 2 ha, 14 nos. × 5 ha), was leased 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. The company is presently in the process of expansion to develop another 200 ha which is expected to continue through to 2015. Their current production is between 100 and 300 tonnes shrimp per year. The operation also possesses its own hatchery to the east of the facility proper, using an area of approximately 10 000 m2.

    Cage culture.The Quriyat Aquaculture Company is the only privately owned company operating cage culture in the country. It has two cage sites located in the Muscat area, one of 2 400 m2 and the other 3 500 m2. The cages are made of high density polyethylene (HDPE). Sea breams are the main species being cultured

    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 is only one agricultural farm, located in the north of Oman, which produces Nile tilapia on a commercial-scale. Irrigation water is used in the production process. The farm has four concrete ponds each with a volume of 140 m3.

    Tuna fattening. Oman is the first country in the Middle East to have initiated a tuna fattening project. The Quriyat Aquaculture Company has installed one large 47 000 m3 cage in the Bandar Khayran area for which in 2004 the production was 14 tonnes of yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares).
    Sector performance
    Production
    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 USD2.5 million compared to USD1.5 million in 2003. The gilthead seabream represented about 82 percent of the total production value.

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

    Reported aquaculture production in Oman (from 1950)
    (FAO Fishery Statistic)

    (Source: FAO Fishery Statistics, Aquaculture production)

    Market and trade
    The majority of aquaculture production during 2003 and 2004 was exported as whole fish products to the United Arab Emirates with only very minor quantities having been consumed on the domestic market. There were two reasons for this, firstly the relatively high price of aquaculture products and secondly, as a result of the local customer preference in Oman, as it was fresh caught marine fish. The 2004 price of exported gilthead seabream was 4.5 USD/kg, while for European seabass was 5 USD/kg.

    Production from the tuna fattening project was exported directly to Japan. Tuna are headed and gutted prior to being export. Strict quality procedures are applied to the harvesting and packaging process. Exported tuna fetched a price of around 20 USD/kg, while tilapia fetch about 2.57 USD/kg on the domestic market. Marketing of cultured white shrimp is wide- spread in Oman and other Gulf Cooperation Council Countries. Currently, the annual production reaches 100 tonnes. The local price of cultured shrimp may fetches 7-9 USD.
    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
    The General Directorate of Fisheries Research under the directives of the Ministry of Fisheries Wealth is the lead agency for the development of aquaculture in Oman. This Directorate is responsible for the management of the entire fisheries sector and coordinates relevant issues with all other government departments involved in developing aquaculture. Within the Directorate there are various departments with. different responsibility for the management of aquaculture activities.

    Aquaculture Center. This recently established Center 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 General Directorate of Fisheries in Oman on aquaculture and related topics.

    Aquaculture Development Department. This office was established in 2000 within the General Directorate of Fisheries Development following an increase in the level of interest, as well as in the number of applications, received from the private sector regarding investment in aquaculture. Investment proposals are received by the Department and then forwarded to the Aquaculture Laboratory for technical evaluation.

    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 evaluation of applications received from the private sector, it is chaired by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and is composed of representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Ministry of Environment and and Climate Affairs, the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications. 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. The law states that the Directorate General of Fisheries is the competent authority responsible for managing the aquaculture 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:
    1. The by-law on fish quality control (Ministerial decision No.136/1998).
    2. The by-law on aquaculture and quality control of cultured organisms (Ministerial decision No.36/2004).
    The executive by-law for aquaculture and quality control of cultured organisms contains around 48 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 (the General Directorate of Fisheries). 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 which relate to the aquaculture sector and which are managed by the Ministry of Regional Municipalities Environment and Water Resources. 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.
    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 recently established a fishermen’s Training institute in Al-Khaboura in AlBatina Region. The institute 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 Agriculture and 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.

    The National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development in Oman has also been prepared and published in 2007 by the Aquaculture Center for the development of the aquaculture sector. The Plan covers areas such as legislation, environmental and disease monitoring, and best practice in sustainable management and development. The Plan furthermore provides guidelines for engaging relevant Government authorities and private sector in the management of the sector.

    The main objectives of the Plan are to:
    • Promote orderly development of a viable and professionally run aquaculture industry.
    • Streamline the approval process of aquaculture investment applications.
    • Promote environmental sustainable aquaculture.
    • Ensure proper water utilization and control environmental contamination.
    • Control the introduction and escapees of introduced aquatic species.
    • Control the introduction of pathogens and monitor disease outbreaks.
    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. The newly 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 Agriculture and 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.
    References
    Bibliography
    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 Rashdi K.M., F.S. Ibrahim and S.H. Al Habsi. 2011. Aquaculture Research and Development in the Sultanate of Oman. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth, Aquaculture Centre, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. 70p.
    Al Rashdi K.M. 2012. Project final report on diversity, stock and aquaculture potential of sea cucumber in Oman. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth, Aquaculture Centre, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. 150 pp.
    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. Year book of Fishery Statistics - Vol.96/2. Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.
    FAO. 2009 Fisheries and Aquaculture Report. No. 892. Rome. FAO 135p.
    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., Krishen, J.R., Goddard, J.S., Al-Amri, I. S., 2005. Morphological development of post-hatch larvae goldlined seabream, Rhabdosargus sarba (Forskål, 1775). Aquaculture Research 37, 1156-1164.
    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.
    Ibrahim, F.S., .Krishen, J.R., A. Ambu Ali, Goddard, J.S., 2010. A histological study of maturity in male goldlined seabream Rhabdosargus sarba (Forskål, 1775) in the Sea of Oman. Journal of Applied Ichthyology 26 (6), 892- 897.
    Ibrahim, F.S (2011). Breeding of native grouper and seabream as a candidate species for aquaculture in the Sultanate of Oman. Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries Wealth, Aquaculture Centre, Oman. 112p.
    Ibrahim, F.S., Tan-Fermin, J.D., J.M. Donoso., Al Balushi A.H., and Al Omiri, A.A. 2012. Embryonic development and hatching sequence in goldlined seabream Rhabdosargus sarba (Forskal, 1775). Aquaculture Research. (In press).
    Ibrahim, F.S., .Krishen, J.R., A. Ambu Ali, Goddard, J.S., 2010,b. A histological study of maturity in male goldlined seabream Rhabdosargus sarba (Forskål, 1775) in the Sea of Oman. Journal of Applied Ichthyology 26 (6), 892- 897.
    Ibrahim, F.S (2011). Breeding of native grouper and seabream as a candidate species for aquaculture in the Sultanate of Oman. Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries Wealth, Aquaculture Centre, Oman. 112p.
    Ibrahim, F.S., Tan-Fermin, J.D., J.M. Donoso., Al Balushi A.H., and Al Omiri, A.A. 2012. Embryonic development and hatching sequence in goldlined seabream Rhabdosargus sarba (Forskal, 1775). Aquaculture Research. (In press).
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