Fisheries play an essential role in the Moroccan economy. According to the Government of Morocco, this sector has contributed an average of 2.3% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the past ten years, with 170.000 directly employed in the industry.
However, due to current global crises, this sector faces challenges such as rising costs for fuel and raw materials, impacts of climate change, and unsustainable practices that can threaten the biodiversity of marine ecosystems.
Since 2009, the government has provided incentives through Halieutis, a national plan that aims to improve growth and development in aquaculture and sustainable fisheries in Morocco. At the same time, as part of the “Green Deal,” the European Union (EU) is looking for ways to develop a sustainable Blue Economy, also in its neighbouring regions.
“Morocco is an exceptional partner of the EU, and the Green Partnership signed on 18 October 2022 between EU and Morocco, encompasses blue economy sectors and offers an outstanding opportunity for economic growth, for integration within European and international value chains,” said Emmanuel Berck, Deputy Head of Maritime Affairs Unit, DG MARE European Commission.
On 2 February, during the 6th edition of the Halieutis fair in Agadir, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) launched two pilot projects that, until 2023, aim to promote resource-efficient production standards and undertake industry demonstrations for improving valorization of fish co-products.
The two pilot projects are part of the Blue Economy component of the EU-funded SwitchMed programme. Under this component, business models, policies and strategies are demonstrated to showcase ways for a sustainable transformation of associated maritime economic activities, such as fisheries and aquaculture, and to reduce their negative impact on marine and coastal ecosystems.
“I am very pleased to be here with you today, the SwitchMed projects are a genuine proof of our joint commitment towards these objectives,” said Emmanuel Berck.
According to Benoit Wuatelet, the UNIDO Blue Economy Team Leader, “every step that can reduce the environmental impact and contribute to the preservation of marine ecosystems will contribute to building a long-term strategy for the future of the fish processing sector in Morocco.”
Results from the first phase of the SwitchMed programme (2014-2018) indicated that fish processing industries in the region are operating below international benchmarks, with raw material losses accounting for 50-60% and significant saving potential in energy and water consumption.
To tackle this challenge, one of the pilot projects will demonstrate the cost-saving potential of resource efficiency measures in the fish freezing, fish canning and fish meal/fish oil industry. The pilot will include an in-plant audit of CIBEL’s production lines, a major Moroccan fish processing company, to identify priority flows (material, water, energy) that can reveal the sources of inefficiencies and propose a set of options to improve efficiency performance.
In addition, UNIDO and local partners will also undertake a training and awareness-raising programme with professionals from Morocco’s fish processing value chain to introduce eco-innovative technologies and processes that can further the application of resource-efficient production standards.
A UNIDO-commissioned waste mapping study from 2021 pointed out that the fish canning and fish-freezing sectors generate around 94% of the 280,000 tons of fish waste that the fish-processing sector annually yields, and this waste primarily goes into the conventional fishmeal/fish oil processing, with a limited in-country value for Morocco’s fish processing industry.
Based on these findings, the second pilot project will, in collaboration with the Institut National de Recherche Halieutique and a team of national and international experts led by PROCIDYS, demonstrate the business case for valorizing fish co-products into products with a higher added value at the fish processing and fish meal/fish oil units. “Both pilot projects could help the industry become more profitable, diversify the product portfolio, create new jobs, improve the resilience of businesses, and better retain the value from fish co-products in the Moroccan economy, “said Benoit Wuatelet.
The data, information and experience gathered from the demonstration pilots will, together with stakeholder consultations, flow into developing a Blue Economy Roadmap for Morocco’s fish processing industry that can benefit the fish-processing sector in Morocco and provide recommendations on how to apply resource efficiency and better co-product valorization processes to other industries along the fish processing value chain.
This roadmap will provide strategic orientation and propose recommendations and incentives to support a nationwide adoption of circular economy principles in the fish processing industry, in line with the national Halieutis 2030 strategy.
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