Aquaculture provides hope for Lebanon amid economic crisis
Lebanon is in crisis. Its public debt-to-gross domestic product is the third highest in the world, unemployment stands at around 25 percent, and nearly a third of the population lives below the poverty line. The government now hopes that aquaculture can help to improve employment levels and food security, and provide economic and social opportunities, including for women and young people.
The country relies for 90 percent of its seafood on imports, buying in around 35,000 metric tons (MT) of fish and shellfish such as fresh sea bream and sea bass, tilapia, red mullet, and shrimp, along with frozen hake, pangasius, shrimp, and tuna. The most prominent exporters to Lebanon are Turkey, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt.
Domestic seafood production is negligible, with landings of some 4,000 MT from fisheries and 1,200 MT from inland aquaculture, which is chiefly trout and some tilapia. However, these small-scale fisheries and aquaculture operations support many people.
To support the sustainable development of Lebanese aquaculture, the country’s government has now partnered with the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The first step is a census to determine what is currently being produced in the country.
The census will register the size of farms, species, and type of products sold, along with information on the feeds, chemicals, and antibiotics used. Results will be shared with stakeholders, and ultimately used as the foundation for a practical framework for the sustainable development of Lebanon’s aquaculture sector.
Lebanese Minster of Agriculture Abbas Mortada was joined by GFCM Executive Secretary Abdellah Srour at the launch of the census this week.
“We are proud of our strengthened collaboration with FAO and the GFCM. Increasing the supply of fishery products and knowledge of the value chain, will improve the quality of life, create employment, and promote food security,” Mortada said.
The census is the latest in a series of collaborative projects on fisheries and aquaculture between the GFCM and Lebanon’s Ministry of Agriculture.
“The FAO in general, and the GFCM in particular, have always been dedicated to building the necessary capacities for Lebanon to achieve the 2030 Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. Among the most important of these is SDG 2, aimed at ending hunger, providing food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture, whether on land or in the water,” Srour said.
The Minister of Agriculture also signed the implementation protocol for an experimental trawl survey in Lebanese waters, which was witnessed by Maurice Saade, the FAO’s representative in Lebanon. This is a major step towards establishing a proper monitoring system for the country’s fisheries, which in turn will help Lebanon to plan sustainable fisheries management strategies, and to meet best practice in terms of conservation requirements, Saade said.
Photo courtesy of General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations