The third edition of the Saudi International Marine Exhibition (SIMEC) is backed by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA) and the National Livestock & Fisheries Development Program (NLFDP). The exhibition aims to highlight the importance, sustainability and economic potential of the country’s seafood sector – including aquaculture and algae production.
The previous edition attracted 10,000 delegates and this year the exhibition space has increased from 6,000 m2 to 8,000 m2. It is also set to feature a new seafood cookery contest, endorsed by the World Associations of Chefs Societies and the Saudi Arabian Chefs Association, in which Saudi chefs compete to make dishes with a specific theme, with aquaculture species – including salmon, seabass, gilthead seabream and shrimp – are set to feature highly.
Further objectives include the promotion of domestic and foreign investment into the aquaculture sector and the opportunity to showcase state-of-the-art marine products and aquaculture technologies.
As Ammar Al-Ziter, CEO of City Events, explains: “As the organisers of this exhibition, we encourage all companies interested in aquaculture technology, food processing and packaging, frozen seafood export companies or the algae industry to visit this year’s exhibition. The investment opportunities are great in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and it is an opportunity for trade exchange between countries.“
As well as the exhibition itself, the event is also set to feature several specialised workshops on themes such as the future of RAS training; how the country’s agriculture development fund is financing aquaculture; applied research for the country’s inland aquaculture development; and innovations in shrimp farming.
The growing importance of aquaculture
The event also aims to support Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 – a government initiative that aims to diversify the country’s economy and reduce dependence on imported food and catalyse the growth of the aquaculture sector.
The aquaculture industry in Saudi Arabia dates back to early 1980s, when Nile tilapia were first introduced in ponds in inland regions of the country. However, it was the rise of the shrimp sector that led to the country becoming a leading producer in the region as well as an exporter of seafood around the world.
From 2015 to 2022, domestic aquaculture production increased by 400 percent – from around 32,000 to almost 120,000 tonnes – with over 200 farms now operational across the kingdom. The highest proportion of this figure relates to the shrimp farming sector, but the marine fish sector is also growing and substantial volumes of tilapia are also being produced.
Key players in the sector include the National Aquaculture Group (NAQUA), which is the largest aquaculture operation of shrimp farming, fish farming and feed business in Saudi Arabia; Jazan Energy and Development Company (JAZADCO), which has a shrimp farm project; Tharawat Seas, which produces fish and shrimp; and Tabuk Fisheries, one of the leading marine finfish farming companies in the kingdom.
As well as the efforts of companies such as these, MEWA has launched a series of initiatives, including extensive R&D programs for the domestication and improved farming efficiency of native species, market analyses and marketing campaigns to increased awareness and consumption of local seafood products and to support capacity building.
Current aquaculture initiatives
There are a number of exciting projects underway in order to help fulfil the country's aquaculture ambitions. These include:
- Implementation of a national biosecurity programme to monitor and control all aquaculture activities.
- Support for scientific and applied research to increase innovation and improve the implementation of the national strategy for the sector.
- Implementation of a national programme for the accreditation of all aquaculture facilities in accordance with the Saudi Mark for Quality of Aquaculture (SAMAQ).
- Establishing hatcheries for freshwater and marine fish, as well as for shrimp.
- Establishing an Algae Technologies Development Unit.
- Participating in local and international exhibitions and conferences annually to attract foreign investments and develop investment opportunities in the Kingdom.
- Implementing a number of special feasibility studies for new commercial aquaculture projects.
- Implementing environmental studies to measure impact of new commercial aquaculture projects.