The United Nations (UN) Food and Agricultural Organisation has welcomed the development of a private aquaculture industry in Saudi Arabia.

The development follows 20 years of research by the kingdom's state-owned Fish Farming Centre.

The Saudi Fish Company, Al-Shaqiq, off the southern Red Sea, now produces 1,500 tonnes of fish annually; the National Shrimp Company, Al-Laith, expects to produce 10,000 tonnes-a-year soon; and the Gizan Agricultural Company is building production facilities for 1,000 tonnes-a-year.

"Our aim is to reduce the gap between marine fish production - Saudi fishing vessels bring in 50,000 tonnes a year - and national consumption, which is 100,000 tonnes a year," said Salem Al-Thobaiti, Fish Farming Centre manager.