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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was one of my favourite films last year.  It will never get even close to my top 5, or even top 10, but it is a well crafted story with all the elements needed for an easy-to-watch but interesting film, especially when nursing a rum-induced hangover.  The book, I have heard, is even better.

In the wake of the book and film’s success, the Yemeni tourist board had to issue a statement stating that there was, in fact, no salmon fishing in the country after being inundated with requests from Britain and parts of Europe.

It now seems that the subject of this story is to become a reality.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has shown in recent years that nothing is impossible, especially when there are oil dollars to back any project.  Indoor ski slopes and luscious golf courses have arisen in the desert alongside some of the most extravagant hotels and building projects in the world.

Abu Dhabi company Asmak now plans to install cold water onshore pools in order to farm salmon.  There are obvious problems associated with such a venture, most importantly that of maintaining a water temperature of 13 degrees Celsius in an area where sea water temperatures regularly top 40 degrees.  This is to be overcome, though, through the use of technology developed in Scandinavia, and being used increasingly in North America and Europe.  A land-based recirculation aquaculture system farm covering an area of 500,000 square metres will, basically, take sea-water chill it and then re-use it.  Having the farms onshore means that the effect of variables such as high tides and acid raid will be far easier to control, as well as minimizing the risks of spreading diseases into the sea and of farmed fish escaping into the wild.

Amsak's offshore salmon farms in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi

Amsak’s offshore salmon farms in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi

These onshore farms are being developed in order to provide affordable alternatives to the local fish market.  As of now the cost of importation is $4 – $5 per kilo and has to be flown in chilled tanks from Norway and Ireland, which brings with it other environmental issues..

It will be upto two years before salmon of a significant size, around 4kg, can be farmed and the project will cost around US$27.2 million to complete

There is always be dubious of these such projects but the UAE are showing that, even in the midst of a world crisis, progress and innovation can still endure.  Let us hope that this project can be achieved with the least affect to the environment and in a way which utilizes labour in a fair, just, and non-exploitative way.

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