By Dr Mohamed Baromh, Researcher at the National Institute of Oceanology and Fisheries, Egypt


Modern Egyptian aquaculture was initiated in the late 1970s following an agreement between the government and the world bank. With the assistance of Hungarian expertise, the first freshwater fish farm in Middle east and Africa was established.

The construction of this joint venture farm began in 1978 and the first production was harvested in 1980 with about a ton per hectare. The very first farmed species were common, big head and silver varieties of Chinese carp, as well as both grey and thin lip mullets.

Since then, Egypt has been working hard to improve its capacity, so that they would be able to use this animal protein to fulfil the demands and reduce the nutritional gap.

In the early 1980s, Egyptian aquaculture provided about 17 thousand tons, which represents approximately eight percent of Egypt's national seafood, that was about 220 thousand tons, with the rest coming from fisheries. The situation has changed today however, as national seafood production has now reached 1.9 million tons, 81 percent of which comes from aquaculture (GAFRD Official Statistics 2019).

To reach this achievement, Egypt established a new authority called the General Authority for Fish Resources Development (GAFRD). This organisation is affiliated to the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation and is charged with the responsibility of leading this new field of animal protein production.

This new position was secured in 1983 with legislation that regulates and organises all related activities. During the next 10 years, GAFRD built its capacity by learning and training its specialists abroad to acquire skills and expertise to improve the sector.

In addition to these procedures Egypt encouraged the private sector and NGOs especially in arid and reclaimed agriculture land to grow fish by providing wild mullet fry.

Egyptian aquaculture breakthrough started in the middle of the n1990s when aquaculture production converted to produce Nile tilapia. This fish became the cornerstone of national seafood production after producing monosex fry technique which had spread in private hatcheries until Nile tilapia became 57 percent of farmed fish production that was more than a million ton by 2012.

Increasing the return on marine food resources

In 2005, GAFRD set out a policy for the development of the fisheries and aquaculture sector in Egypt until 2017, which they have now expanded until 2022. The overall objective of the policy is to increase the return on marine food resources through environmentally compatible systems.

One such target involved an annual capita of local production of 16.5 kg by 2017, with this target reached by 2015. Their current goal is to increase production by 2.1 million tons, resulting in an annual seafood production to 20 kg by 2022, thus ensuring that fish production increases at the same rate as the growing population.

Their aim is to also improve fish products from various sources in order to be compatible with international requirements, whilst also supporting marine aquaculture.

The policy has three major objectives:

1. Ensure the use of natural fisheries to achieve sustainability, while exploring the potential of using unexploited areas and types.

2. Maximising revenues from aquaculture projects, especially water resources. This should be achieved through incentivising private and cooperative sectors and implementing research projects that seek to maximise returns in this sector.

3. Reforming the institutional structures for fish resources and building capacity. This policy has so far contributed to a significant increase in national productivity.

At present, Egypt is the sixth aquaculture producers globally (FAO 2018) with more than 1.5 million tons and has a lot of experts who improve the quality of farmed fish especially with issue of water scarcity and their ability to reuse the water in addition to climate changes that caused summer mass mortality and loss about 10 percent of national production. Despite all of these challenges, Egyptian fish farming professionals are looking to increase production to 30 tons per hectare but the average production of farmed fish 12 - 15 tons per hectare.

The farmed fresh water species in Egypt are Nile tilapia, Chinese carp - common and silver carps, African catfish which produce in fresh and brackish water and the mullets which rearing in fresh , brackish and marine water.

While farmed marine water species are Sea bass, Sea bream, Meagre, shrimp, keeled mullet and very little amounts from Groupers and Sole which produce in brackish and marine water.

The geography of Egyptian fish farming

Fish farming is concentrated in the northern governorates on about 125 thousands hectares, fresh water fish farms in Kafr Elsheikh, Sharqia, Beheira , Dakahlia, Alexandria, Damietta and Port Said while marine fish and shrimp farms in Kafr Elsheikh, Alexandria, Damietta, Ismailia and Port Said.

5 years ago Egypt established several large governmental marine fish farms to follow the same procedures of successful story of farming fresh water species for improving the production of marine species to fulfil the local market needs and export the rest.

These farms are located in Kafr Elsheikh governorate - Ghalion Farm on 1000 hectares, Port Said governorate - Sharq Eltafriaa farm on 8000 hectares and Ismailia governorate - Suez Canal farm on 3200 hectares.

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