OBBC Spotlight On Blue Waters

AOS

February 9 2021

A bold vision for aquaculture in the Sultanate

Oman is a country with a proud and rich maritime culture. Its fishing sector has traditionally been a major source of employment for large numbers of Omanis, integral to their identity, traditions, and crafts. Oman is blessed with a 3000km coastline, favourable water temperatures and unparalleled biodiversity. Combined with its world-class infrastructure, investor-friendly environment, political stability and strategic location close to key export markets, it is clear that the fisheries sector has vast promise and will play a crucial role in Oman’s economic future, as well as contributing to food security and future employment.

Quite simply, Oman has the right geography, the right climate and the right people.

Fisheries Development Oman (FDO) is a joint-stock company and a subsidiary of the Oman Investment Authority, the government-owned sovereign wealth fund. FDO was incorporated in November 2019 under the strategic decision to consolidate the aquaculture and fisheries verticals. It will be the pioneer investor in aquaculture projects, acting as a catalytic initiator to develop large scale projects in the sector, with the ambition of becoming a regional leader in the production and sale of shellfish, pelagics and finfish.

Blue Waters is the subsidiary company responsible for developing finfish aquaculture in the Sultanate. Al Wusta Fisheries and Oceanic Shrimp Aquaculture will focus on pelagic and shellfish respectively. Blue Waters is the primary vehicle to attract domestic and foreign private sector investment in the finfish aquaculture industry, while adopting best-in-class technology through international and local partnerships.

Oman’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Vision 2040 is to create a “profitable world-class sector that is ecologically sustainable and a net contributor to Oman’s economy”

Undersecretary of Fisheries Wealth, Oman

Market Drivers

The World Bank has estimated that 40 million tonnes of fish will be needed globally by 2025. Oman’s aquaculture production is expected to achieve 200,000 tonnes by 2040, exhibiting an annual growth of 15%.

The Aquaculture industry worldwide has rapidly grown from 15% of total world fish production in 1986 to 46% in 2018 and is projected to grow to 53% in 2030 (FAO 2020 Report), driven by an increase in per capita fish consumption from 13.4 kg/capita in 1986 to 20.5 kg/capita in 2018 and an increase in world population. Export data forecast as per FAO indicates that the Gilthead Sea Bream market in the GCC in 2022 will be 10,500 tonnes.

We believe that aquaculture is the future of the fisheries industry due to the over-exploitation and rapid depletion of several fish species. Global compliance in responsible and sustainable fishing is essential.  In Oman, we need to catch-up as our aquaculture projects contribute less than 1% of the county's fish production.

Who we are

Blue Waters is pivotal to Oman's aquaculture vision. Established in 2016 in Quriyat, our first project is concerned with growing up Gilthead European Seabream fingerlings in floating cage farms offshore to commercial and marketable sizes. The farm has a capacity of 3000 tonnes per year. In order to achieve our production capacity, we need to accelerate the stocking of seabream fingerlings. At this stage, we have to import the fingerlings live from Europe until we develop our own hatchery in Oman.

Currently, Blue Waters is the largest producers of seabream in the Gulf. Since its inception, it has invested in marine finfish cage farms, but also helped in developing modern processing, packaging and logistics for fresh seabream products in GCC. The Company aims to create an integrated value chain; hatcheries, feed factories, fish production and processing that maximize the value-add to the aquaculture economy in Oman and the region.

Blue Waters is in the process of establishing a finfish hatchery in collaboration with international partners as part of its commitment to innovation and to embrace the latest technology, research and development.  Such development is crucial in order to undertake local species development in the future and to further increase efficiencies in marine finfish production in Oman, in line with the country's vision and strategic objectives.

Where we're going

We have an ambitious plan to build up a capacity of up to 10,000 tons of fish farming in Quraiyat in the long term. We are hoping in the next 5 years to expand the seabream farm to a 5000-ton capacity. We will also invest in a tuna fattening farm by end of 2021 and a project for farming some local species such as cobia. In order to cater to the future 10,000-ton capacity, we are working on a plan for a comprehensive support centre in Quraiyat Fishing port that includes a packaging plant, storage facilities, maintenance workshops and offices. ​​​​​Ultimately, these projects will require more than USD 50 million in investment over the next 5 years.

We welcome any investor interested in our projects that can transfer know-how, introduce new technology and/or develop local capabilities. We are currently exploring a number of projects with technical partners and hoping to conclude some of them by next year.

Aquaculture development in Oman offers substantial opportunities for SMEs, international investors and R&D houses. We currently work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture & Fishers Wealth and Water Resources, along with SQU, to commercialize some of these opportunities. We are always happy to collaborate with SMEs to explore potential interest areas.

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