By Adnan Hizam
Yemen is preparing to launch a new fisheries resource management and conservation project next month. The project will be carried out by the Ministry of Fisheries Wealth, the World Bank, and the European Commission, as part of the investment program to develop the fishing sector in the country.
The project is part of the third five-year plan for 2006-2010, which allocated $120 million to this key sector. The fishing management project is government-supported, and will be launched early this year, at a total cost of $35 million in government funds, said Minister of Fisheries Wealth, Ibrahim Saghari. The aim of the project is to develop infrastructures for the fishing sector in the country, and to organize fishing operations as well as improve the quality of fishing products, he said.
According to the executive program for the project, the seaports in Hodeidah, al-Khobah, and Nashton in the al-Maharh governorate would be rehabilitated, Saghari said. "The ministry has received 31 requests from international companies from America, Britain, France, and Germany and Egypt to enter in bids for rehabilitating these seaports," Saghari said. He considered the project to be a key resource to boost the national economy. The project includes setting up an information center that links the ministry with all fisheries facilitated via a database, with statistics to help evaluate the performance of fishing activities in the country, he said.
The FAO food and agricultural organization has agreed to fund the center, said Saghari. "The work in establishing the center will start next February," he said. The project also includes wave breakers, and areas for selling fish in coastal cities, as well as an extension for current fishing seaports, as well as aquaculture projects in the country. The project would support activities of the fishing associations and improve the role of marine monitoring. Much money has already been funneled into Yemen's fishing sector. In 2005, the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors approved an amount of $25 million to fund the project.
According to the World Bank, the project would have wide-ranging beneficial impacts in Yemen, and will allow artisan fishermen to derive increased incomes through better fish handling, quality, and marketing. The improved quality of fish will promote local health safety and allow Yemen to sustain its fresh fish exports. In August, 2005, the European Commission approved €7.5 million assistance to support the project. The commission said that its support will focus on increasing the productivity and competitiveness of Yemen's fishery sector and improving the quality of its output, without affecting fish stocks.
The project's aim is to improve quality in order to maximize coastal communities' fishing revenue while reducing health risks for consumers in Yemen and abroad. Activities include capacity building, research, and development efforts related to fish conservation and handling, and upgrading of infrastructure and equipment such as landing places, auction halls, quality control laboratories, and inspection facilities. The project will also develop a fisheries management information system, based on monitoring of catches, allowing sustainable sector management through informed decision-making.
Saghari revealed that the Turkish AGRO Company would invest $ 100 million in the fisheries sector. He said that the company would send a technical team to study some seaports in the country within the coming days to start its activities. The company will set up centers for fishing exports that will be supplied with new, state-of-the-art equipment. Last May, the ministry and the company signed agreements to create one or two centers for fishing exports and organize a three-year program for training technicians in the fishing sector.
Saghari said that the Turkish company recently presented an action plan to carry out the agreement within six months. The company agreed to hand over all assets of the project to Yemen within 20 years. Currently, the ministry is carrying out a program for promoting aquaculture at 35 sites along the coastline of the country. Aquaculture, also called aquafarming, is the science, art, and business of cultivating marine or freshwater food fish or shellfish, such as oysters, clams, salmon, and trout, under controlled conditions. At an upcoming conference for exploring investment opportunities in Yemen, the ministry will present comprehensive studies on the opportunities for investment in the fishing sector.
The first conference to explore investment opportunities in Yemen, originally scheduled to be held in Sana'a in February, has been postponed until April. The sector is very attractive for investment, said Saghari. There are opportunities to invest in exporting, as well as canning factories and fishing-boat factories. The German E-commerce Company will start this month works to establish the first fish farms in the Arab region, the minister said. The project will be in the Shahar area in the Hadhramout governorate on the Arabian Sea, at a total cost of € 15 million, with a capacity for 500 tons of lobster and other kinds of fish yearly. Lobsters are an economically important type of seafood, the basis of a global industry that nets the US$1.8 billion in trade annually.
"The ministry is studying now offers by foreign companies to establish farms for tuna," he said. According to international and local studies, Yemeni waters are rich with more than 450 kinds of fish and seafood, and between 60 to 70 percent of those can be marketed for food or other products. More than 500,000 people in the country benefit directly from the fish sector, which creates 100,000 jobs (70,000 fishermen and 30,000 others are employed in the fishing industries).
Yusuf Bin Sabt, Chairman of the Kuwaiti Union for Fish and Lobster Farming, visited Yemen last week to discuss with the Minister of Fisheries Wealth investment opportunities for aquaculture along the Yemeni coastline. All facilities will be granted to those interested in investing in the sector, Saghari said. He welcomed Arab investors, and in particular Kuwaiti businessmen, to invest in Yemen.