Egypt is fast-tracking a government-sanctioned plan to expand and improve the protection of several of its inland fisheries, particularly lakes, as part of a fisheries and aquaculture development scheme aiming to increase overall fish production in the country to at least 3 million metric tons (MT) by 2025.
Egyptian General Authority for Fish Resources and Development (GAFRD) chairman Salah Al-Mishly said, in an interview with The African, that Egypt’s lake-improvement program targets at least nine lakes contributing nearly 12 percent of the country’s total fish production annually.
"The development and protection of lakes in Egypt has become a top-priority concern, and the GAFRD, the Armed Forces Engineering Authority, the Suez Canal Authority, and some private companies have collaborated in doing this," Al-Mislhy said.
He said the lakes whose names are on the table for improvement include Maryut, Edko, Manzala, Borolus, Bardawil, Al-Timsah, Great Bitter Lake, Qaroun, Wadi, El-Rayan, and Nasser. Priority is being given to lakes of Al Manzala, Burullus, Mariout, and Bardawil, that collectively reported an estimated 200,000 MT of production in 2020, according to the FAO.
The scheme to transform Egyptian lakes into a major seafood source will be implemented in accordance with October 2021 legislation that provides guidelines on how the protection and development of lakes and fisheries should be implemented, according to Al-Mislhy.
The law has also placed several restrictions to ensure maximum fishing benefits from Egyptian lakes, Al-Mislhy said. The regulations ban the use of licensed boats in areas where fishing is prohibited, “except in emergency cases caused by weather conditions or a defect in the boat,” and establishes the Egyptian Authority for the Safety of Maritime Navigation as the sole permitting authority for lake fishing, while a navigation license for fishing in inland waters, issued by the Public Authority for River Transport, will also be required.
Other provisions of the law include a ban on fishing in prohibited areas and during prohibited periods; or by methods, materials, and tools that are not permitted. Moreover, no fishing nets, machines, or materials would be allowed on any fishing boat in the lakes unless they are licensed or authorized as provided for in the new law.
Fish landings from natural fisheries will only be allowed in designated areas and by methods specified in the law, and only after “ensuring compliance with the specifications and following the veterinary technical procedures and registration, which are determined by the relevant regulatory agency.”
Egypt's new law has also banned artisanal fishing for recreational purposes and restricted the establishment of fish farms or fish hatcheries except where relevant government agency has issued a permit.
According to Al-Mishly, some of the protection measures, such as those on Bardawil, Borous, and Manzala lakes, will be completed this year, while those for Maryut Lake are expected to be finalized in 2023.
Manzala Lake, which produced 82,500 MT of fish in 2020, up from 60,000 MT in 2017, will receive USD 2 billion (EUR 1.76 billion) worth of improvements, with the scope of the project covering approximately 105,000 hectares.
Egypt’s total fish production surged 17.64 percent between 2016 and 2020, reaching 2 million MT in 2020. Aquaculture represented 81 percent of total fish production in Egypt in 2020, having increased 18.2 percent from 1.37 million MT in 2016 to 1.62 million MT in 2020.
Production from Egyptian lakes in 2020 was 10 percent of the country’s total fish output, while seawater, freshwater, and rice fields produced 4.4 percent, 3.8 percent, and 0.8 percent of the total national fish production, respectively, according to USAID.
The U.S. agency predicted an “increased fish demand in the coming years driven by
population and economic growth which will require a sustainable increase in fish production through utilization of new feed use improvement technologies and water-use efficiency innovations, as well as good farming practices.”
Photo courtesy of The Arab Republic of Egypt Presidency