By Joey Aguilar/Staff Reporter
Aside from possibly producing climate-proof crops, Qatar could also potentially be a world leader in marine salt-based aquaculture if it will do more research and explore its natural water resources.
This was the assessment of Maxwell Allen Herriman, programme director of Foodplus under the Crops for the Future Research Centre (CFFRC), during an interview with the Gulf Times recently .
He said that globally, marine and coastal aquaculture grapple with the dilemma and limitations of relying largely on fish-meal and fish oil as a primary source of feed.
Banking on research, Qatar would lead in developing innovative plant-based aquaculture feed that lessens dependence on wild-caught fish, Herriman said. This, he noted, will also lessen the dependence on a small number of imported plant crops, such as soya bean and corn. “A barrier to aquaculture industry development in Qatar would have been weakened or perhaps even overcome.”
He sees that such an achievement would be welcomed around the world as an important contribution to improving global food security.
But in order to do so, Herriman stressed that Qatar has to break the nexus of relying on capture fisheries to feed its fish, “otherwise it would reach a ceiling that would reach very very quickly.”
He also said that Qatar should not depend on imported plant-based food. “We have to look carefully on what can be done here in this environment with this circumstances, what species might be growing here that can form the foundation for a nutritious feed,” he added. Fish, as a major source of protein and pro-biotics, is therefore a very important potential food source, which could even reduce the use of antibiotics, the programme director noted.
He reiterated that relying too much on capture fisheries to feed aquaculture fish impedes the chances of achieving self-sufficiency. “Capture fisheries cannot continue to meet that demand exponentially; there’s a limit to it.”
He admitted that the idea of raising the population of fish in the ocean is very challenging. What he suggested is to find ways to re-stock, to provide refuge for fish. “And as it happens, there is one fish refuge that no one intended to be so, which is your gas and oil platforms.”
The concept, Herriman said is that one gas and oil platforms act as fish-aggregating devices, which are very important tools used by fishermen to bring fish together and capture them. “And now we scientifically control, enhancing the food availability to not just make it a protection zone but to enhance its production free from disruptions, replenishing the fish catch area,” he explained. He made an assurance that the feeds which will be developed and used do not cause any disease. This is due to the fact that those that are not scientifically controlled feed source can carry bacteria that cause diseases. Thus, it should be carefully controlled to plug nutritional gaps and give maximum benefit.“You can always compare what we are doing with others who are always at war with the fish. We catch the fish and we’re hunting them down, not wiping out the fish,” he said. “We’re using advanced technologies as compared to others,” Herriman said.
An artist’s depiction of crops for the future.