Private fish breeding farms are expected to start getting baby fish (fingerlings) and shrimp larvae at subsidised and much lower prices than market price from the hatchery of the Aquatic Research Centre in Ras Matbakh by the beginning of next year, said an official. He also said that several measures have been taken to protect the strategic reserve of fish in Qatari sea water.
“The hatchery is expected to start operation by the beginning of next year,” said Abdulaziz Mohammed Al Dehaimi, Director of Fish Wealth Department at the Ministry of Municipality and Environment in an interview with The Peninsula.
To protect the strategic reserve of fish in the sea, the Ministry has put a ceiling on fish catch from the sea at 14,000 tonnes per year and is focussing on fish farming projects to meet the growing demands of the market and to achieve self-sufficiency in fish production.
“Recently, the Ministry signed the first contract with a private company to launch a fish farming project in floating cages in the sea to produce 2,000 tonnes of certain types of fish annually,” said Al Dehaimi.
He said that another tender for shrimp farming project with 1,000 tonnes annual production capacity at Al Arish coastal area, will be floated by the end of this year.
“Two more fish farming projects with the capacity of 2,000 tonnes each will be also implemented in next phases as per the demand,” said Al Dehaimi adding that all new projects will add 6,000 tonnes fish to the existing production capacity of the country.
He added that the additional fish production will be enough to cover the future demand of the market. The fish farming project has been designed to increase the capacity to cover the further demands in future.
“With the help of these new projects, Qatar will achieve self-sufficiency in fish production within next five years,” said Al Dehaimi.
Speaking about the strategic reserve of fish in the sea, Abdulaziz Mohammed Al Dehaimi, Director of Fish Wealth Department, said “According to a study conducted at GCC level, Qatar’s fish production in sea should range between 13,000 tonnes to 15,000 tonnes per year.
“So we stopped fish production at 14,000 tonnes per year and working on a way to keep production below 15,000 tonnes per year in any way,” he added.
He said that several measures have been taken to protect the strategic reserve of fish in Qatar’s sea water. For example; ban on fishing kingfish during breeding season from August 15 to October 15, allowing only nets with bigger holes and there are other measures as well.
“During ban period, the affected fishermen are provided financial support as compensation,” he said.
“On the other hand, we have launched fish farming projects as an alternative for fishing in the sea to cover the growing demands in the market, so the strategic reserve of fish in the sea does not go below-required level to protect it for coming generations,” said Al Dehaimi.
He said that the fish statistic section has a complete fish database recording all types of fish and its size, and with biomass technology, we measure strategic reserve stock of fish per sqm giving clear indication whether the reserve is going up or down. “Qatar’s strategic reserve of fish stock in the sea is safe and sound,” he added. Speaking on the prices of fish in local market, Al Dehaimi said that fish prices are stable. He also said that the new fish farming projects will help create more balance in term of supply and demand providing consumers with their favourite fish at further reasonable prices.
Regarding the impact of new fish farming projects on the business of the fishermen, Al Dehaimi said that only certain types of fish will be bred under the projects. There are about 54 different varieties of fish in Qatar so there is no question of stealing business from anyone.
He said that the farms will breed only those fish which have low production and high demand especially among fishes like silvery black porgy, yellow-finned seabream, white spotted spine foot (Safi) and orange-spotted grouper (Hamour).
“So the new projects will not have any negative impact on the market but it helps to create a balance in prices of fish,” said Al Dehaimi.