Cairo, November, 2007
Fish is a traditional and important component of the Egyptian diet. Fish is reported to be the cheapest of animal protein available in Egypt. Capture and aquaculture fisheries are considered an important and promising food protein production sector in Egypt. The local demand for fish in Egypt is high and the national consumption of fish increases. Contrarily to red meat production, where Egypt does not have a competitive advantage over neighboring countries, prospects for fish production are highly competitive. This was partially proven by the increase in fish production in the period 1985-2006 by three folds. Supplying the local market, in spite the extremely difficult legal and political setting. The fisheries sector could develop much further, operating at a high and proficiency level, if today's constraints are alleviated.
Domestic fish production has for some years been insufficient to meet the requirements of the growing population of Egypt and has had to be supplemented by increasing quantities of imported fish. Egypt can reach self-sufficiency level for aquatic products, and become a net exporter of high quality products within short period. To realize this, proper policies and potential actions must be taken that will upgrade the technology and raise the efficiency, while securing long-term sustainability.
The objective of this paper is to identify -in brief- the constraints and barriers to fisheries development with the purpose of to determine the objectives of policy reform and needed actions for development of fish industry.
The paper includes three topics; first one includes background information on the fish industry, while the second topic deals with the main constraints hamper development process, and the third one concluded the proposed development policies and actions to be taken to overcome the standing constraints.
I. Background Information:
- The aquatic resources base in Egypt is extensive, consisting of marine, fresh water and brackish water. The Mediterranean and Red Seas border the country and Suez Canal and the Great Bitter Lakes connect the seas. The Nile River, which runs through the Delta into the Mediterranean Sea, provides an immensely important source of fresh water. There are four littoral brackish water lakes: Manzala, Burullus, Edku, and Maryott and two lagoons (Bardawil and Port Fouad Depression to the west of Delta). Three important drainage basins are present in the Fayoum Region: Lake Qaroun and Wadi Rayan Depressions. Lake Nasser is a large man-made lake in Upper Egypt. Various smaller lakes and water canals are also found in the country.
- Fish culture is an old activity in Egypt. Currently, fish farming ranges farm the traditional village type ponds to modern private and governmental fish farms. Also included are governmental and private hatcheries and governmental fry collection centers for the restocking of water bodies and fish ponds.
-Fish production, from all aquatic resource, has increased by three folds in the period 1985-2006. The production increased from 246,500tons to 970,520 tons. The contribution of aquaculture to fishery production has progressively increased from 14% in 1985 to 61% in 2006, while the contribution of natural fisheries has decreased by rates vary from one water body to another. This mainly due to many factors will be mentioned latter.
- Decreasing the Mediterranean Sea fertility caused by the construction of the Aswan High Dam, However, it is reported that new resources in the Mediterranean Sea exist. Data from Italian surveys indicated unexplored source of demersal and pelagic fish at a depth of more than 150 meters (about 20,000 tons of demersal species and 40,000 tons of pelagic fish). Developing suitable deep-water trawling gear is needed. However, it is important to update these estimates.
- The Egyptian fisheries sector in general and aquaculture in particular is governed by many outdated laws and regulations. Some of the regulations even have a negative impact on the industry due to the involvement of several authorities, often with contradicting or overlapping objectives. This slow down long-term investments, hindering technological improvement of the sector.
- Almost all of the fisheries and aquaculture products are marketed locally. Fish import fluctuates around 15% of total fish consumed in Egypt amounting more than 160,000 MT in 2006. Exported fish come mainly from capture fishery represented by marine species that collectively amounted about 3000 MT in 2006.
-Market supply and demand factors control prices and the higher value "luxury" species, which used to be exported, now command equal or higher values to those obtained on export markets giving no real incentives to producers to export considering the additional preparation costs and regulations involved with export.
-There are about 95 capture and aquaculture cooperatives produce the bulk of national fish production.
- Although capture and aquaculture is a business of men from operational side, women can be owners of fishing vessels, aquaculture projects and work in fish trade and processing.
II. Main constraints hamper development:
-The natural fisheries appear to be grossly over-exploited. Reducing the number of vessels, as one of possible solution, would likely result in higher catches per vessel and in higher total landings.
- Marine fisheries are subject to oil pollution resulting from oil extracting activities, industry and maritime transportation.
-Tourism development along the Red Sea Coast adversely influences coastal fishing operations.
- Agricultural, industrial and sewage pollutions are the main constraints for fishery development in the northern lakes. Further, the decrease of drainage discharged in Lake Manzala to supply water to Salam Canal influences fisheries in the Lake.
- Developing cage culture in the river Nile, its branches and canals faces some obstacles .One is the Ministry of Pubic Works and Water Resources prohibits such activities. Another is that the run-off agricultural pesticides, industrial and power stations influents can be expected to have a negative effect on cage culture development.
- Water resources are by far the most important factor, which limits aquaculture development. Only agricultural drainage water is used for fish farms. The Ministry of Public Works and Water Resources implemented a water reuse program. In the future, drainage water could be regulated as farmers are starting to reuse this water for crops as well. Moreover, a new water policy has been set targeting greater control on water use for crop production, which in turn will lead to reducing the quantity of drainage water available for aquaculture (especially since the use of water for crop production has priority over aquaculture).
- Increasing demand on mullet fry as well as other farmed marine species, leads to over fishing of the fry from the wild, which in turn adversely affect capture fisheries in marine waters.
- Conflicts of policies related especially in relation to the use of land and/or water. These conflicts take place among sectors competing for such limited resources. The competition for land and sometimes water for tourist or conservatory activities is an issue. Such competition is more pronounced in coastal areas
- Lack of coordination between and within responsible ministries (Ministries of Agriculture, Puplic Works and Water Resources, Environment, Local Administration, transportation and others) is the critical constraint for proper management of inland water bodies.
- Relaxation in enforcing fishing and environmental legislations.
- The cooperatives are constrained by funding shortage and they are no longer allowed to import fishing inputs.
- Poor fish handling and inadequate quality control.
- Lack of preferential access to major overseas markets for Egyptian fisheries products, high relative cost of freight and uncertainty in availability of airfreight hamper fish products exports.
III. The proposed development policies and actions:
The revision of fishery policies is an important issue for the sector development. Considering the available development potentialities and opportunities, the proposed development policies and action to be aimed aim at:
- To make Egypt self-sufficient for aquatic products in the future, providing food security for this commodity.
- To create additional direct and indirect employment for a large section of the population, and
- To generate export value of high aquatic products.
To achieve these development goals, the following policies and action to be implemented:
4-1 insuring fish resources sustainability through proper fisheries management policies and water environment protection and conservation. These could be achieved through:
-.Develop proposals to estimate the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for marine and inland fisheries.
- Develop proper fisheries management policies aim at controlling fishing efforts. These include: decreasing number of fishing vessels, closed fishing seasons and/or fishing areas.
- Develop proposals for appropriate modification of fishing, aquaculture and water environmental legislations and regulations.
- Develop proposals for all affected water bodies to eliminate or treat polluted water before it reaches them to ensure appropriate levels of quality and salinity.
- Develop proposals for the sustainable management of fries of mullet and other commercially important species.
- Prohibiting both governmental and private land reclamation activities in the northern lakes to maintain their water surface.
- Develop intensive cage culture in the Nile and its branches and canals having suitable dimensions to avoid obstructing water movement in an acceptable manner.
4-2 Enhance coordination between fisheries and aquaculture stockholders.
This requires work with the Ministries of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Environment, Public Works and Water Resources, Transportation and others to document current procedures and regulations and develop recommendations for a consistent and integrated program, with appropriate arrangements for enforcement.
4-3 develops a proposal to strengthen fishermen cooperatives.
4-4 Develop proposals to determine requirements for monitoring control and surveillance of each water body, including facilities,equipments,personnel, training and incentives with programs ensuring tat the users are aware of their responsibilities and obligations.
4-6 Development of marine aquaculture, genetic enhancement of farmed fish as well as introduce more local species in aquaculture to avoided the price to decline due to the surplus production of currently farmed species mainly tilapia.