‘Blue Economy’ could be a pillar of Morocco’s development

To increase the contribution of the “Blue Economy,” Rabat is seeking to benefit from experiments from around the world.
Sunday 17/02/2019
After the catch. A fishing boat sails off the coast of the Moroccan city of Larache.      (AFP)
After the catch. A fishing boat sails off the coast of the Moroccan city of Larache. (AFP)

The Moroccan government recently made efforts to strengthen the fisheries sector’s role in the economy by 2030.

To increase the contribution of the “Blue Economy,” Rabat is seeking to benefit from experiments from around the world, especially the Australian model, through training, research and biosafety as well as development projects.

Moroccan Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Aziz Akhannouch recently met with Agriculture Minister of the State of Victoria Jaclyn Symes to discuss the topic.

“Australia has adopted an approach based on a vision that focuses mainly on product quality and biosafety and these are aspects that are of particular interest to Morocco,” Akhannouch said at a news conference. He said Australia and Morocco were interested in developing partnerships in the sector.

Industry experts said Morocco could become a maritime fishing capital because of its great marine wealth and huge renewable resources. Marine products account for half of the country’s food exports.

The government is seeking to increase export earnings to $3 billion by next year. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) projected that Morocco’s fisheries output could rise 18.2% by 2030 to 1.7 million tonnes of fish per year.

Ten years ago, Morocco inaugurated the Halieutis Strategy and established the National Agency for the Development of Aquaculture in 2011 to develop the fishing sector and study the challenges facing it.

Fishing activities contribute significantly to ensuring Morocco’s food security. It is one of the most job-creating and fastest-growing economic sectors in the country.

Official data indicate the sector employs 97,000 people, in addition to 108,000 fishermen, and represents 84% of the country’s planned targets by next year under the Halieutis Strategy.

Morocco’s Blue Economy contributes nearly 2% of the country’s GDP, which some say is too little, given the length of the Moroccan coastline.

Ahmed al-Shami, of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (ECOSOC), said  Morocco’s maritime qualifications can make the Blue Economy a key pillar in strengthening the national economy within the framework of the country’s development model.

Morocco has coasts on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, with a total coastline of 2,000km, and it has a 1.2 million sq.km marine economic zone.

Morocco ranks 13th globally in terms of the marine fish production and is the leading producer in Africa and the Arab world. The FAO’s “2018 The State of Fisheries and Aquaculture” report said total national natural fish production of Morocco for 2016 was 1.43 million tonnes, an increase of 81,000 tonnes over the previous year.

An ECOSOC report last year pointed out that the traditional fishing sector in Morocco suffers from social problems, despite efforts under the government’s Ibhar 1 and Ibhar 2 programmes. Only a small minority of fishermen can take advantage of fishing on the high seas.

The aquaculture sector — fish farming — is among priority projects for Rabat. Production stands at 510 tonnes per year. However, ECOSOC said it considered the sector not sufficiently developed, compared to other countries in the region, because of challenges related to real estate, financing and taxation.

Khalid Bensami, chairman of ECOSOC’s Environment and Development Committee, pointed out that one of the major problems facing Morocco’s Blue Economy was the lack of coordination among the various stakeholders.

Bensami said the national strategy recommended by ECOSOC would enable proper planning of the maritime sector, allowing coordination of all parties concerned and reducing negative competition among them.

Morocco could benefit more from the Blue Economy if coordination between the different sectors was intensified through a long-term strategic vision based on a participatory, inclusive and integrated approach.

The aim is to increase production and make better use of the sector to create wealth and additional employment opportunities, as well as enhance the capacities of sectors related to the Blue Economy while preserving the marine environment.

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