Abalone farm in Mirbat tar­gets to in­crease an­nual catch to 600 tonnes

Catch had dwin­dled in the re­cent years with pro­duc­tion at 50-55 tonnes

Muscat Daily - - NATION - M Na­j­muz Za­far

A lead­ing South African abalone farm­ing com­pany Abagold, with a 50:50 joint ven­ture with Mus­cat Over­seas Group (MOG), is look­ing to har­vest up to 600 tonnes of abalone in the sul­tanate.

The newly formed en­tity, Oman Aqua­cul­ture Com­pany, will be­gin con­struc­tion at the seven-hectare site in Mirbat, Salalah soon.

The aqua­cul­ture farm will be set up in two phases, with the ini­tial one see­ing the out­put at 100 tonnes and by the end of the fi­nal one it will be pro­duc­ing 600 tonnes of shell­fish, which has the high­est yield per kilo­gram among all Omani ma­rine prod­ucts.

In com­par­i­son, the abalone catch has dwin­dled over the years in Omani wa­ters, with yearly catch hov­er­ing around 5055 tonnes. It went up to a high of 149 tonnes in 2011, when fish­ing of abalone re­opened af­ter a mora­to­rium of three years on har­vest, sale and ex­port.

With the dwin­dling catch, the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries has im­posed bans on fish­ing abalone from time to time, with the lat­est one be­ing im­posed for two years be­gin­ning 2017.

For the last few years, fish­ing sea­son has var­ied from year to year, span­ning from ten to 25 days in De­cem­ber.

Go­ing through ini­tial statu­tory de­lays, the project is now on track and Phase 1 with 100-tonne pro­duc­tion is ex­pected to com­mence fully by De­cem­ber 2020. “While Phase 2 will fol­low from there and should be com­pleted and fully stocked by De­cem­ber 2023,” Tim Hedges, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Abagold, told Mus­cat Daily.

Com­ment­ing on the time­line, Hedges said it has changed by a few months as a re­sult of some de­lays ex­pe­ri­enced in the re­ceipt and ap­proval of all rel­e­vant li­cences, per­mits and le­gal doc­u­men­ta­tion for this in­no­va­tive Omani ven­ture. “So many of the ap­pli­ca­tions we made to dif­fer­ent de­part­ments, were in fact, the first such ap­pli­ca­tions ever re­ceived and so there is no spe­cific ex­pe­ri­ence of analysing and ap­prov­ing pro­cesses and ap­pli­ca­tions for abalone aqua­cul­ture farm­ing in Oman. The learn­ing in this re­gard has been in­valu­able and we are now ready to start con­struc­tion,” he said.

Hedges added that Abagold and MOG de­cided to im­ple­ment the project in phases, so that a num­ber of the con­cepts and mile­stones, that were jointly agreed, could be proven through Phase 1 pro­duc­tion. “This first phase will in­clude a large part of the in­fras­truc­ture (elec­tri­cal con­nec­tions, pipe­lines, earth­works, starter build­ings and a fully mod­u­larised hatch­ery). It will have one full unit of 160 tanks pro­duc­ing vol­umes of abalone equiv­a­lent to 100 tonnes pro­duc­tion per year. Phase 2 will fol­low on di­rectly from con­fir­ma­tion of all as­sump­tions proven in Phase 1 and will be a 600-tonne farm op­er­at­ing from six pro­duc­tion units.”

Talk­ing about the chal­lenges and suc­cess of the project, Hedges said that Oman Aqua­cul­ture Com­pany was very con­fi­dent of the re­sults that will be achieved from the project. “Abagold has built and op­er­ated three farms in South Africa and we bring tremen­dous knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence to this project. Our part­ners in Oman are as ex­cited and com­mit­ted as us to make this op­er­a­tion and busi­ness a suc­cess.

“We see the di­rect ben­e­fit be­ing the pos­si­ble re­seed­ing and re­stock­ing of the ocean with Abalone again in a well struc­tured joint part­ner­ship with the min­istry in Oman as well as lo­cal fish­er­men, whose liveli­hood has been de­stroyed by the re­duc­tion in the nat­u­ral abalone re­source. We also hope to in­tro­duce abalone back into the re­gion for lo­cal con­sump­tion and along with this we will be cre­at­ing many jobs in the Mirbat re­gion.”

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