Morocco strives to upgrade its fishing industry

Rabat aspires to utilise fishery resources in a sustainable manner and double its domestic fish production by next year.
Saturday 05/10/2019
A fishing boat sails into the harbour of the economic capital of Morocco, Casablanca. (AFP)
A rich coastal zone. A fishing boat sails into the harbour of the economic capital of Morocco, Casablanca. (AFP)

RABAT - A report has revealed that Morocco’s fishing sector faces several challenges associated with improving production while considering sustainability and conservation of fisheries, although the sector has grown in recent years.

The Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture established its Alliotis Plan in 2009, the first integrated strategy for the fishing and aquaculture sector in the country, to modernise the marine sector and improve its competitiveness.

A report by the Supreme Council of Accounts stressed addressing imbalances in implementing the plan, which focuses on improving resources, infrastructure and production.

The council’s report identified shortcomings, including delays in completing projects and in achieving goals, especially those related to improving the presence of Moroccan fisheries in international markets, fish production and aquaculture, as well as improving the domestic consumption of sea products.

The report cited the effects illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing have on the sector’s contribution to Morocco’s GDP and highlighted the weakness of existing infrastructure across the entire production chain.

The report stated that octopus fishing was subject to illegal fishing and reporting practices “such as dual reporting of the same product and mixing authorised products with products coming from IUU fishing.” It pointed out the serious shortage in refrigeration equipment in wholesale fish markets where there is usually one cold room, except at the Marrakech market where there are four such areas.

Rabat aspires to utilise fishery resources in a sustainable manner and double its domestic fish production by next year, making the sector a key driver of economic growth.

Morocco is counting on the advantages of its location and long coastline to strengthen partnerships with African countries in the fishing sector and become a hub connecting the continent with the world, especially after Morocco has returned to the African Union.

Morocco has a coastal zone of about ​​1.12 million, which is one of the richest in the world in terms of fisheries.

The Ministry of Agriculture defended the productivity of the fisheries sector and the Alliotis Plan, saying ministerial actions contributed to the sustainable exploitation of marine resources. It emphasised that Morocco was benefiting from the plan and pointed out that the Supreme Council’s report stated that 19 of the 21 planned goals had been implemented.

The ministry voices reservations about two recommendations in the report, one of which is to frame preparations and management of fisheries with legal tools, such as a law or a decree.

Moroccan Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Aziz Akhannouch said the Alliotis Plan had achieved significant results, as shown by achievements in the fishing sector and the high number of transactions. He pointed to the growth of private investment in the sector and tangible improvements in scientific research, aquaculture, domestic consumption, investments and combating fish smuggling.

Akhannouch said the sector’s contributions to the Moroccan economy in 2017 totalled about $1.7 billion, 80% of the objective fixed by the Alliotis Plan.

Official figures indicate that Moroccan fisheries improved their share of the world market from 1.8% in 2007 to 1.9% in 2015 because of improvements in market diversification and expansion to 135 countries, compared to 127 countries in 2010.

Despite reservations about the efficacy of the Alliotis Plan, the fisheries sector in Morocco increased its contribution to the economy by increasing exports. The report stated that exports of marine products in 2017 amounted to about $2.3 billion, representing 50% of all revenues from the food and agricultural exports and 10% of the country’s total exports.

The fishing sector has become one of the main contributors to reducing unemployment, providing nearly 200,000 jobs, in addition to boosting prospects for sustainable growth as exports grow because of government incentives.