Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Image Credit: Agencies

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia plans to set up a 70 million fingerlings fish farm, the largest in the MENA region, officials said Tuesday, in a bid to boost its burgeoning multimillion-dollar aquaculture industry.

In the presence of the Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli, NEOM Company and Tabuk Fish Company signed a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at expanding local aquaculture production and applying the new generation of aquaculture technologies in the NEOM region.

The MoU included developing a fish farm to promote the aquaculture industry in the region, both within artificial lakes and natural waters, and establish a solid infrastructure in the Kingdom, in line with Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the country’s economy and sources of income.

The hatchery will operate with a capacity of 70 million fingerlings, which makes it the largest in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Armed with a SR1.3 billion development fund, Saudi officials have drawn up ambitious plans aimed at making the country self-sufficient in seafood production while at the same time expanding markets abroad.

As part of a raft of initiatives designed to stimulate investment and growth in the domestic aquaculture sector, the Kingdom has set an annual production target of 600,000 tons by 2030.

Dr. Ali Al Sheikhi, CEO of the National Fisheries Development Program and director general of the General Department of Fisheries at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, explained that this agreement is a fundamental turning point.

It is particularly so with the entry of significant companies such as NEOM Company to invest in the aquaculture industry, seen as one of the most promising and effective industries for supporting economic growth and achieving food security.

Nadhmi Al Nasr, CEO of NEOM, said: “We are pleased to work with Tabuk Fish Company to introduce new technologies and approaches to aquaculture to improve all aspects of farming and sustainability.

“The capacity and innovative nature of the hatchery, combined with top-notch technologies, will help position Saudi Arabia at the forefront of sustainable marine aquaculture.”

Nasser A. Al Sharif, chairman of Tabuk Fish Company, welcomed the collaboration, saying: “Our collaboration with NEOM will initially focus on creating a state-of-the-art fish hatchery to generate local jobs.

“It will also attract top technology companies to NEOM, allowing Tabuk Fish Company to establish a variety of new business opportunities and positively impact the NEOM region and beyond.”

Aquaculture is currently the world’s fastest-growing food sector and accounts for over 50 per cent of the total global seafood supply.

With seafood consumption in the Kingdom projected to grow 7.4 per cent annually, sustainable aquaculture growth is key to meeting this demand and easing pressure on wild fish stocks, which are under stress in the region and worldwide due to overfishing.