Farming the riches of the sea: Mauritius has the potential to rapidly develop an aquaculture industry by farming marine and freshwater fish in its lagoons. The island plans to export locally grown fish on a large scale in the coming years, Nasseem Ackbarally reports from Port-Louis.

Author:Ackbarally, Nasseem
Position:MAURITIUS - Zablon Karingi Muthaka won the Youth Business International Entrepreneur of the Year 2006

In a few years, total world production of aquaculture fish, which stands presently at 55m metric tons, would be at par with the production of marine fish, which currently stands at 95m metric tons. Where then would this place Mauritius which depends on its marine resources to develop its newly-built seafood hub as another pillar of its economy? "We should struggle for our share of the market," says Daroomalingum Mauree, principal fisheries officer at the Agro-industry and Fisheries Ministry in Port-Louis, the man behind the development of aquaculture in the island.

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In a bid to ensure a fair share of this market, Mauritius has commissioned a master-plan from the French company Ichtyo Developpement Eau Environnement (IDEE) based in Montpellier. The plan will be built around Ferme Marine de Mahebourg (FMM), a Franco-Mauritian fish farming enterprise based at Mahebourg, in the south of the island. FMM is a pioneer of the industry. The farm already exports small quantities of fish to South Africa and Dubai. It is now building a treatment plant that will allow it to export its products to Europe under strict sanitary conditions. The new plant should be ready by the end of the year, says Chris Lee, a director at the FMM.

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"Presently, we cannot export a single fish to Europe until we have a treatment plant that operates under European conditions. Then only will we be able to export value-added products that foreign consumers look for, like fish filets and culinary fish, ready for cooking," he said.

FMM plans to export a thousand metric tons of fish next year and between 3,000 and 5,000 metric tons after its new plant becomes fully operational.

Looking for fast-growing species

The master-plan is based on the existence not only of 243sq km of lagoon that can be exploited but also several large pools scattered throughout the island.

The plan will be officially submitted to the Mauritian authorities in late December but African Business has learnt some details about the sites identified on the island where appropriate species of fish could be farmed. Between six to 10 sites have been identified in the south-eastern part of the island, near Mahebourg, the south-west, north-west and northeast. The fish species identified are Red Drum, Cobia, Sea Bream and Baramundia.

The latter, imported from Australia is already under trial at Gros Caillou, in eastern Mauritius where a local firm, Val Farms Ltd, is starting an...

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