Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector
Aquaculture in Qatar is gaining momentum for the last few years. Since 1988, significant efforts to develop the sector have been made. There are a few fish ponds in the private sector using extensive and semi-intensive culture systems. The continuous increase in fish consumption and demand for fish in Qatar needs to be addressed through aquaculture production. The Department of Fisheries is planning new experimental projects for the growth of the aquaculture industries as a profitable venture. The natural resources for aquaculture are yet to be exploited and they require pioneering effort both from government and the private sector. Coast land unavailable for agriculture and commercial activities are available for fish and shrimp culture and associated activities.
History and general overview
Aquaculture activity in Qatar started in 1988 with the construction of a small government experimental aquaculture research facility in cooperation with experts from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), called the Doha Aquaculture Centre. The centre carries out research on selected species suitable for fish culture according to their price and demand on the local market. Currently the private sector focuses on Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) aquaculture. Most of the private farms are located in south west end of the country.
The centre started working with the white-spotted spinefoot (Siganus canaliculatus), a popular fish in Qatar. The wild fingerlings collected from the sea in March, three months after the spawning season, were reared in an open system for 6-8 months until they reached marketable size of 200 g. Imported artificial feed was used during the rearing period. In 1998, experiments began in the larvae rearing of both the white spotted spine foot and the yellowfin seabream (Acanthopagrus latus) and succeeded in the controlled spawning of the latter species. The hatchery-produced fingerlings were released into the sea for stock enhancement during 1998-2000 and 2002. In 2004, 3 000 green tiger prawn larvae (Penaeus semisulcatus) were also produced under controlled conditions and released into the sea.
On an experimental basis, the yellowfin seabream was successfully reared for 18 months. In 2001 a small hatchery unit was established with a seawater treatment system and rotifer production unit. In 2002, a research programme began into improved rearing technology for the larvae of yellowfin seabream, and better results in terms of growth and survival were obtained.
In 2010, a pilot experimental Tilapia farm at Tumbak, Alkhor under fisheries department started functioning.
There are 7 full time employees working at department’s Tilapia farm. Currently the number of people employed in the private sector is insignificant since these farms are mostly associated with the agricultural farms.
Farming systems distribution and characteristics
Most of the private farms are small and are located on the south-west coast, following semi-intensive culture methods of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Annual production capacity is around 40 tonnes. Issuing licence, for commercial farming in private sector, started in 2014 and expecting significant increase in production in coming years.
The species cultured in the private sector is the Nile tilapia. Experimental trails have been carried out with the white-spotted spinefoot (Siganus canaliculatus), yellowfin seabream (Acanthopagrus latus), and the greasy grouper (Epinephelus tauvina). The larval production of yellowfin seabream and green tiger prawn (Penaeus semisulactus) was successfully carried out and both species are used in marine stock enhancement programmes.
Practices/systems of culture
As mentioned above, the semi-intensive culture method is practiced by the private sector. Earthen ponds 10 x 20 x 1 m in size and concrete tanks (3 x 10 x 1) are used for farming. The research conducted by the Department of Fisheries into the viability of finfish culture has been found promising. Commercial culture activity is yet to be undertaken with the active participation of private investment.
At department’s farm, Tilapia is reared successfully in recirculation system. Through closed system of broodstock management, the unit produced 10 000 fingerlings in 2013.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Qatar according to FAO statistics:
Market and trade
At present, there is no specific market for the sale of aquaculture products due to their limited availability. The produce are auctioned at Central fish market.
Contribution to the economy
As the production and income from aquaculture is very low, there is no significant impact on the economy. The fish requirements of the country are met mostly from marine catch and imports.
Promotion and management of the sector
The institutional framework
The governing agency for fisheries and aquaculture is the Department of Fisheries under the Ministry of Environment, and headed by the Director of Fisheries. Aquaculture activities are under the responsibility of the Aquaculture Unit of Fisheries Development Division within the Department. This division regulates all aquaculture, stock enhancement and conservation programmes in the country. The staff that works in the Department includes professionals, technical and support personnel. Special emphasis is being given to engage more staff in the aquaculture sector for its pilot project at Alkhor and upcoming research centre. The Department takes all available opportunities to train and educate its personnel by participating in national and international fora, exhibitions and symposiums.
The governing regulations
The department has drafted new Aquaculture Executive regulation and submitted for Ministerial approval, which imparts guidelines for sustainable development and management of aquaculture, using best management practices and adopting measures for mitigating environmental impacts by judicious utilization of land and water resources.
Applied research, education and training
Research and training are the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries, mainly for site selection, identifying suitable species, growth studies, controlled larval rearing, disease control and management. The premier educational institution, Qatar University, offers a graduate level course in Marine Science to impart scientific and technical knowledge in this field to the coming generation. The proposed Aquatic Research Centre, in association with Qatar University, will become the focal point of education, research and training in future aquaculture development in the Country.
Trends, issues and development
For many years the Department of Fisheries attached great importance on the national marine resources through research into fish stock assessment and aquaculture activities. In order to develop sustainable aquaculture, the Department recently started the construction of its first Aquaculture Research Centre at Rasmutback, north of Al Khor.
ARC is built at an estimated cost of QR (Qatari Rial) 230 millions (USD 63 millions) on a space of 110 000 Km2.The centre consist of marine fish and shrimp hatcheries, rearing and broodstock ponds, quarantine facilities, laboratories, administrative buildings, staff accommodation, sea water intake and treated water outflow facilities. Currently the project is in its second phase and is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. It is an important research and development project intended to boost fish production and conduct research on marine life and environment with most sophisticated equipment and technology. The project will also help in fostering and protecting endangered marine organism and biological diversity of the local marine life.