June 26, 2020


UAE aims to increase aquaculture investments


Mariam Al Mheiri, United Arab Emirates' Minister of State for Food Security said the country must boost its investment into aquaculture to bolster its food security, which had been affected by COVID-19, The National UAE reported.


Mariam Al Mheiri said aquaculture technological investments will be key to safeguarding UAE's food security, after COVID-19 related international border closures and food supply interruptions.


She said the UAE will develop an aquaculture national road map, adding that the industry is an important method for growing high-value protein without using large amounts of fresh water.


220,000 tonnes of seafood is consumed in the UAE every year. The country imports 75% of this amount, with domestic aquaculture only accounting for 2%.


Mariam Al Mheiri said for UAE's aquaculture blueprint, it will lean on the private sector, stressing the importance of attracting investment.


The UAE has invested AED 20 million (~US$5.4 million; AED 1 = US$0.27) into developing fish farms and hatcheries. These include upgrading the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Centre hatchery in Umm Al Quwain, which tripled its production output to 30 million juvenile fish annually.


These investments have grown domestic aquaculture production from 500 tonnes to 3,255 tonnnes per year, but it's a small amount when compared to national consumption.


Local and federal governments are working with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation(FAO) to improve aquaculturebiosecurity, statistics, markets, offshore aquaculture and contained aquaculture systems that recirculate water.


Essa Al Hashmi, head of the Food Security Office at the Prime Minister's Office said the large portion of the UAE's farmed fish will be produced for the domestic market, but there are plans to export processed fish.


There are questions pertaining to what fish species can thrive in captivity in the extreme Gulf weather. High demand species include include cobia, hammour, safi (rabbit fish), and sheri (spangled emperor) but not all them can be farmed.


Alessandro Lovatelli, a spokesman from the aquaculture office at the FAO said it is a question of economics, adding that farming sturgeon or salmon in the UAE will not feed the domestic market as that is a niche market.


Lovatelli said the goal should be the affordable fish production, through the use of new technologies and research investments.


-      The National UAE