RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is working to establish a regional center for fisheries, a Saudi minister told a conference in Riyadh on Sunday, as part of its bigger goals to diversify the economy and address food security.
Saudi Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadley said the government is keen to develop fish farming, describing it as one of the fastest-growing food sectors in the world.
“We have created initiatives that involve the private sector in developing this sector,” he said during the opening of the Saudi international Marine and Exhibition Conference or SIMEC.
The Saudi minister, who also heads the National Fisheries Development Program, said investing in fisheries is also in line with the Kingdom’s efforts to address food security, which is a common issue across the Gulf.
“We are working on establishing a regional center for fisheries, and establishing an academy dedicated to fisheries,” Al-Fadley added.
One of the projects the Saudi government is working on is developing seaweed, the minister said.
He said the government has invested in research and development to enhance the capabilities of the sector, and align the Kingdom’s efforts to international benchmarks.
The ministry is working with several Saudi universities to produce scientific research that could lead to many benefits such as decreased production costs and improved export capabilities, Al-Fadley explained.
Manuel Barange, director of fisheries and aquaculture division of UN unit Food and Agriculture Organization, highlighted the important role the Kingdom could play in the region.
He said the Kingdom produces 49 percent of the total aquaculture across the Gulf, adding the event is a “great opportunity” to capitalize on this.
Barange echoed the importance of creating a regional hub for fisheries in the Middle East, especially with areas such as the Red Sea, which has been studied to have a vibrant marine ecosystem.
The Saudi minister said they are working with their partners at FAO to develop sustainable marine resources and highlight the importance of research.
Al-Fadley also mentioned the importance of having easy regulations for investors to participate in the local economy.
The statements were made during the SIMEC event in Riyadh, which gathered regional and international stakeholders in the fisheries sector to talk about the potential of the region.
Under its Vision 2030, the Saudi government has identified several industries to drive economic diversification away from oil dependence.
The Kingdom wants to generate as much as SR17 billion ($4.3 billion) from the sector, creating 200,000 jobs to support local fishing communities.
Ministers from China, Denmark, Norway, and other Arab countries are expected to attend the three-day forum.
Aside from the ministry, the event is also hosted by the National Fisheries Development Program, which is the Saudi government’s executive arm of its Vision 2030 fisheries policy.