UAE aquafarming has growth potential as demand for sustainable food sources grows

    21 Jun 2021

    The UAE is taking meaningful action to reverse the trend of overfishing to satisfy the country’s huge demand for fish in a sustainable way. By adopting aqua practices to replace conventional fishing methods, the UAE has taken decisive action to help preserve fish supplies without harming the environment, Arabian Business reports.

    To put the current worldwide emergency into context, with 90 % of big fish populations depleted, according to statistics from the World Economic Forum, we are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished. Between 50-80 % of our oxygen comes from the ocean and just as alarmingly, over 1 billion people rely on it for their main source of protein – fish.

    Increasing urban populations in cities throughout the UAE has created a scenario where demand greatly outweighs supply, to the extent that sustainable measures must be taken to reverse the trend. These controls became part of the UAE’s strategy to support marine biodiversity and reduce the country’s reliance on imported fish. Unsustainable fishing practices were outlawed as traditional fishing methods were replaced by innovative techniques that took advantage of a new aquafarming model.

    Abu Dhabi approves $142 m farming projects as part of agricultural investment push

    Today, the aquaculture industry accounts for over 50 % of the fish consumed globally, and it is expected that 66 percent of seafood will come from aquafarming production by 2030. In the UAE alone, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment previously said that the gap between demand and consumption of fish in the country is around 136,450 tonnes.

    Aquafarming is set to become a big business.

    Inland fish farms are becoming an important source of food production in the region, but some have faced criticism over their own unsustainable practices. The core element for successful and sustainable aquafarming practices begins with an accurate and reliable understanding of the various parameters that determine water quality. After all, it is the base ingredient that sustains all life. Without this, yields suffer, costs rise, corners are cut, and the damage caused to the environment can be insurmountable.

    Aquafarms create jobs and improve food security at a time when the pandemic has caused economic uncertainty throughout the region. Compared to meat, fish is much less resource-intensive to produce and is not as harmful to the environment. Wild fish stock levels have fallen so dramatically over the last 50 years that aquafarming is now required to make up the shortfall.

    The aquafarming market in UAE will be driven by the government encouraging foreign and local investments and giving the sector various incentives. If the sector can overcome the challenges of importing fish feeds, machines, and spare parts, it could benefit from the incentives provided by the government to supply fingerlings of local species and ease barriers to investment.

    In the UAE alone, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment previously said that the gap between demand and consumption of fish in the country is around 136,450 tonnes.

    Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS), a chemical-free, containment system of recycled seawater is one such method being used to produce fish in a sustainable way. Water is purified and reused continuously in a closed system that limits water use and uses energy efficiently. There is a vast array of complexities that come with successful aquafarming, however; for example, disinfection of circulated water is essential to maintaining fish health. Ultraviolet and ozone provide effective disinfection without producing harmful by-products or chemical residuals.

    Sustainability is a national priority in the UAE and demand for ocean-based food sources will continue to grow. How we strike this delicate balance between sustainable production and consumption is really important. GCC countries have taken giant steps forward to incorporate sustainable food practices but, so far, aquafarming is an industry in its infancy.

    Despite that, the growth potential is huge if it can overcome the barriers to market in line with sustainable practices.As we reported in May, Qatari initiatives to expand fish farming in Gulf waters can prevent the depletion of resources caused by the impact of climate change.

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