Interview: Hassan Sentissi

How have the objectives outlined in Plan Halieutis been implemented thus far?

HASSAN SENTISSI: Plan Halieutis outlined ambitions for the fisheries and seafood processing industry to achieve by 2020. These include bringing its contribution to GDP to Dh21.9bn (€2.03bn), significantly reducing informal activities and increasing our global fisheries market share by 2%, to $3.1bn (€2.6bn).

Morocco is looking to increase production and employment opportunities. In the period between 2016 and 2017, we particularly noticed supply-chain improvements, with the quality of catches and landings greatly enhanced through the use of ice and standardised containers. This better enabled us to have higher-quality raw materials delivered to transformation plants. However, significantly more work must be done to modernise fishing fleets, offer education and training opportunities for seafarers and improve port infrastructure.

There is also a need to accelerate the creation of competitiveness clusters in the northern and southern regions, which would enable us to further diversify into international markets. This would also encourage innovation and research and development in terms of preparation, products, packaging and marketing – particularly in the canning industry. Morocco has the potential to produce up to 1.2m tonnes of canned goods per year, and investments in research and development would enable us to reach this goal over the next few years.

What are the biggest impediments to the development of domestic fish stocks?

SENTISSI: Morocco’s maritime areas accommodate authentic and unique species. It is the world’s leading exporter and producer of sardines. Therefore, there are enormous efforts to be made in terms of innovation, from production to commercialisation. However, the richness of the sea fluctuates, and Morocco is wary of overfishing as it can be a detriment to the ecosystem that the industry and fish both rely upon. As a result, there are limits of up to 20% of fish stocks to allow species to develop.

In the Mediterranean, for example, a variety of stocks, such as red mullets, anchovies and sardines, are depleted as a result of overfishing, and therefore protecting these types of fish could go a long ways towards not only protecting the species, but mitigating the negative effects of ocean pollution on stockpiling and development.

Though the effects have not been exactly measured yet, Morocco has already committed itself to take action against ocean pollution following the COP22 UN Conference on Climate Change and the Blue Belt Initiative. What is still lacking, however, is a well-defined and disseminated strategy.

In what ways is the fishing industry diversifying and innovating its capabilities?

SENTISSI: The fisheries segment is increasingly looking to diversify its products and capabilities. Recycling and maximising the use of resources is another goal for the industry.

Resulting from growth fuelled by various sectors, every bit of the fish can be used. For instance, the Department of Fisheries launched tender bids for canning factories at Boujdour and Dakhla to develop more innovative products.

We have also been solicited by other African countries to help create investment and development strategies for their fishery segments, because fishing has such a long tradition in the kingdom. The fish canning industry, for example, dates back to the 1920s. We have since developed a knowledge and mastery of seafood processing. Our port infrastructures have developed; our factories are highly rated according to international standards; and export market demand has increased each year.