With an impressive variety of fish species, entrepreneurial tenacity and world class academic and research industries, there is a great potential for aquaculture to contribute immensely to South Africa’s economy.

Contribution of aquaculture to South Africa’s blue economy is among the focus points at the first South Africa-Norway Science Week, which is underway in Cape Town, focusing on the country’s multibillion-rand maritime sector.

The event opened in Pretoria on Monday, 31 October, bringing together policy-makers, researchers and scientists from both countries, to discuss ways of exploring new business opportunities in the blue economy. The event celebrates successful relations South Africa has had with Norway, on science, technology and innovation, since 1994.

At the discussion on aquaculture, South Africa’s marine researchers and fish farmers made presentations on progress the country has made in growing a sustainable aquaculture industry.

According to Mr Gregg Stubs, owner and founder of Three Streams fish producing company, aquaculture was the fastest growing food industry in the world and its production will surpass wild capture fisheries within a decade, and a significant volume could be produced in Africa.

He said that in sub-Sahara alone, aquaculture production accounted for 200 000 tonnes of exported fish at 600 000 US Dollars, between 1984 and 2007.

Prof Peter Brits of the Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science at Rhodes University, said aquaculture, imports and enhanced fishery production, were the only way Sub-Saharan Africa could meet the growing demand for fish consumption.

According to the World Bank, fishery demand and supply would grow substantially (by 30 percent between 2010 and 2030). The Bank projected the production deficit to be 1823 million tonnes in Africa alone.

Prof Brits said Africa presented with “great environmental conditions, human potential, markets and a growing demand”. There was also infrastructure, investment certainty, policy and support from government for the industry to thrive.

Using abalone as an example to show projected growth, he said the production of the fish was set to double in the next five years, earning R400 million in foreign earnings, creating 2000 permanent jobs from 14 operational farms in South Africa alone.

There were also several aquaculture projects around South Africa where growth could be realized. This included eight operational oyster and mussels production farms in the Western and Eastern Cape, which produced 1050 tons of fish in 2012 alone, with oysters valued at R14 million and mussels at R8 million. This led to the creation of 200 permanent jobs on the farms.

Making the conditions more favourable, seafood has now become mainstream “eat out” food for most people while most retailers were realising the opportunities, which presented a scope for more growth.

The SA-Norway Science Week will end on Friday, 04 October.