“The Second GCC Marine Biotechnology Conference: Emerging Opportunities and Future Perspectives” was organized by the Centre of Excellence in Marine Biotechnology (CEMB), SQU, in association with the European Society of Marine Biotechnology (ESMB). The opening ceremony of the event was commenced under the patronage of H.E. Dr. Hamed Said Al-Oufi, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Around 160 participants representing researchers, industry and policy makers from 23 countries attended this two-day conference. 39 talks and 30 high quality poster presentations covering different aspects of fisheries, aquaculture, biofouling, antifouling, marine natural products, genetics and biodiversity of marine organisms were presented during the event. The topics of the conference were selected on the basis of current and planned research activity in Oman and elsewhere in the Middle East. The aims of the conference were to assess and promote the development of marine biotechnology in the Gulf and to bring together scientists for the establishment of new collaborative activity. The focus of the conference was on current and proposed marine biotechnology research and the opportunities for its application in the Gulf region.
There is widespread and ever-increasing interest in marine biotechnology and its socio-economic impacts. Oman’s exploitable economic zone covers some 400,000 square kilometers of ocean and has rich biodiversity. Living marine resources are Oman’s major renewables and have remarkable potential for commercial exploitation beyond the present capture fishery. Extreme environments occur within oceans, which have led to the evolution of marine organisms with unique structures, metabolic pathways, reproductive systems and sensory and defense mechanisms. Within these molecular structures and processes, new materials, bioactive compounds and biochemical systems and processes can be found that will have applications in human health, nutrition and future supplies of energy. Aquaculture is an area of national strategic development and is supported by the application of appropriate genetic, cellular and molecular technologies, enabling fish farmers to produce more abundant, resilient and healthier supplies of seafood.
The conference chair, Dr. Sergey Dobretsov said that the development of marine biotechnology in Oman is being pursued by Sultan Qaboos University, SQU (through a dedicated research Centre of Excellence in Marine Biotechnology). There are also other initiatives in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth and The Research Council. “The conference will offer an avenue for knowledge dissemination and capacity building for the younger generation, as well as, set the stage for future collaborations between institutes and centres in the Gulf region and from all over the world. This is the second marine biotechnology conference organized in the region. The first one was organized by the CEMB in November 2013” – he added.
The plenary speaker Prof. Grant Burgess, Newcastle University, UK in his talk mentioned that marine biotechnology has grown into the growing multibillion-dollar industry since the 1980s. In his presentation he reviewed marine biotechnology commercial successes from around the world and highlighted the successful examples. Dr. Roger Huerlimann from James Cook University, Australia talked about environmental DNA that represents a forensic genetic signature of the organism having occupied a habitat. These molecules can be used to detect rare and invasive species in ecosystems. On the second day of the conference, Professor Claire Hellio, Brest University, France spoke about biofouling and its prevention using marine natural products. Dr. Stephen Goddard will be presenting findings about development of aquaculture in the arid environment.