With a GDP of US$ 402 billion, and a population of 9.45 million people, UAE is one of the largest countries in the GCC. Consisting of sever emirates, the UAE boasts one of the largest aquaculture and fisheries sector in the GCC. UAE boasts of the 3rd highest production in GCC countries in terms of capture fishing, with production in 2013 totalling 80,426 metric tons. It is one of the pioneers of aquaculture. The country has an abundance of lagoons, bays and creeks encircled by mangrove swamps, ideal spawning ground for fish.
The market for fisheries and aquaculture in the UAE was value at US$ X million, and is expected to increase at CAGR X% over 2016-2022. UAE’s per capita fish consumption is the 2nd highest in all of GCC at 24.5 kg per capita per annum. Meanwhile, an increase in population, by as much as 125% between 2006 and 2014, largely made up of protein preferring young population and expats, further drives demand. However, aquaculture based production, formally initiated in 2003, in UAE is still in its infancy, producing no more than 780 tonnes of a total of about 86,000 tonnes, approximately 1% of total produce, at odds with global average of 50% as of 2013. Constraints to this sector include a lack of knowledge dissemination, poor management of resources due to the ‘tragedy of the commons’, or over fishing in common areas, and a lack of labour: Incidence of migrant labour from Philippines, Bangladesh and India in the fisheries sector is on the decline, while a number of native artisanal fishermen and women have abandoned fishing for more lucrative livelihoods as capture catch becomes progressively sparser. It is for this reason that aquaculture measures are being renewed through MERD (Marine Environment Research Department) after a decision by the government to preserve naturally occurring fish, and to diversify the economy given the high demand for fish.
UAE has acquired food security through availability of fresh fish. While this has been achieved in part through unsustainable fishing practices, MERD’s initaitives are steering the fishing ecosystem in the UAE in the right direction. The types of species recently selected for future aquaculture projects include white-spotted spinefoot, the Sobaity seabream, and the orange-spotted grouper. Other species commercially cultured include the gilthead seabream, Tilapia, pearl oysters, mullet and more recently, salmon, sturgeon and caviar in a first of its kind farm in the middle east. There are a total of 9 aquaculture farms in the UAE as of 2014 with culturing of oysters, finfish, and crustaceans.
Companies for fish processing services and fish rearing management, primarily through aquaculture can conduct business in the UAE under PPPs, available through tenders floated by the Ministry of Environment and Water (MOEW). In addition, the UAE administration recently announced several large RAS and offshore pisciculture plans. Important names in the fishing and aquaculture industry include Asmak, Mubarak fisheries, Emirates Star Fisheries, among other state owned and private players. The private players engaged in the fishing economy mostly export fish, thereby contributing highly to the economy. A well-developed transport infrastructure facilitates this increase in international trade.
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