Tilapia: Miracle Fish (Part 1)

Published on: 05/03/2018
Author/s : Ramon Kourie, Chief Technical Officer, SustAqua Fish Farms (Pty) Ltd.

In the space of 25 years, global farmed tilapia production has risen from obscurity to become one of the most important farmed fish species from less than 398,000 tonnes in 1991 to a predicted global production of 6.4 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2017. Projections indicate an expected growth of 2.6 percent in 2018 to 6.5 MMT, significantly lower than the average growth rate of 12 percent over th...

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May 4, 2018

Thank you very informative article.

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Prakash Chandra Behera Prakash Chandra Behera
M.SC IN MARINE BIOLOGY ( FISHERIES)
May 5, 2018
Very interesting and more valuable topic.
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May 5, 2018

Thank you, Prakash and Daniel. I believe tilapia is the best whitefish species to supplement cod, haddock, hake, hoki, etc but its a must that we achieve both sustainable intensification, improved meat quality and improved food safety all simultaneously...poor quality pond farmed tilapia is not going to cut it. International and discerning local markets will need to be assured of food safety - non-use of hormones, antibiotics and chemicals and the use of good quality water and the sustainable use of resources (land, water, energy, feed etc). Tilapia farmers must excel at marketing a low mercury whitefish produced to the highest standards if we want to capitalize on global markets - price pressure on global whitefish will act in the favor of tilapia producers. We should not aim too low on these issues since the technologies available today such as Biofloc Technology (BFT) and the filter-feeding mechanisms of tilapia give the industry a clear advantage over other competing whitefish species such as pangasius. It's time to rise up to the challenge.

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May 16, 2018
In municipalities like Hong Kong, tilapia are available at relatively low cost when compared to other freshwater fishes such as carps. They are not that popular as consumers cannot tell where they come from (farm or wild). Sometime they are caught in large number in open environment by individuals and end up being sold in markets to consumbers. That might be the problem behind as consumers worries about environmental contaminants come with them.
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May 16, 2018

Hi, Richard

Thanks for your comments above. You are absolutely right. Consumers need to know where the tilapia they may be interested to buy originate from. Traceability, certifications and branding will become mandatory to elevate the status of tilapia to a healthy and wholesome species choice and one that consumers would trust from a food safety perspective. Unidentified frying objects will not assist in the development of more discerning markets for tilapia which literally holds the potential to bridge the coming global fish Supply-Demand gap predicted to hit 50MMT by 2030. As tilapia farmers and producers we need to up our game to capture consumer trust and the market potential on a local, regional and a global scale.

Best, Ramon,

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May 16, 2018
It is very unfortunate that the use of hormone treatment as a means for the production of all-male tilapia a drawback. It is a fact that USFDA has cleared the use of 17 alpha methyltestosterone(MT) in the production of all-male tilapia seed under Minor Use and Minor Species. All-male tilapia produced using MT are quite safe. There is not a single report on the presence of MT residues in marketed all-male tilapia produced using MT. So, it is not correct to dub them as risky.
regards,
G.P.S.Rao
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Madhab Bahadur Pantha Madhab Bahadur Pantha
Chief Fisheries Development
May 16, 2018
Yes Tilapia beings a miracle fish it posses also many problems in producing all male on top of that it spread quickly in the natural invitonment and causing threats to all local fish spp.we have small lakes in Pokhara where we did not intentionally introduced but it might have come with other spp while stocking seeds from other fish farm. Now the situation is such that although fish catch has increased mainly due to Tilapia affecting the catch of local spp. It has also incroched the nursery of other spp.
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Jayasree.s Jayasree.s
Biologist
May 31, 2018

Madhab Bahadur Pantha Sir, I cultured tilapia for my research purpose in my home in large cement tanks. After the purpose, I left it. One day I purchased some aquarium fish and kept in the same tank being thought that the very next day it can be transferred to my aquarium and added sufficient feed and herbs. But to my surprise, even a single one was left in the tank. Another thing I noticed was it will feed its own try and the mother becomes very ferocious and she will release her fries very safely. If any ripples or change in the water, she suddenly opens her mouth and safeguards her fries. Thank you, sir. Dr. Jayasree.S

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Madhab Bahadur Pantha Madhab Bahadur Pantha
Chief Fisheries Development
June 7, 2018

Jayasree.s Although Tilapia is very good and tasty fish, good for intensive production either in pond, raceways or cages/pen. Its breeding programs should be done by specialized tilapia hatchery, which maintains genetically pure brood and distributes the pure seed to farmers. Farmers need to purchase each year for stocking.

Once the Tilapia is released into the natural then it starts dominating on the local spp by foraging egg mass or feeding on small fries as I believe so. Now it accidentally gets introduced in the lakes of Pokhara valley in Nepal. Now its population is increasing in catch (though it is good) but on the contrary, the population of important local spp has gone down. Naturally, T. nilotica by nature is not a carnivorous fish it is rather a plantivorus fish. As the fish is spreading so fast in Asia it is getting difficult to safeguard our indigenous spp. Therefore natural water sanctuaries need to be established to save the important indigenous fish spp. That is what I believe. Though I love to eat Tilapia.

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May 17, 2018
Dear Rao

Many thanks for your valid comments re androgen sex reversal of tilapia.

At no point was it I who dubbed all-male tilapia as risky. I did mention however that green growth opportunities such as mixed sex production offers a market niche for tilapia among more discerning consumers. I believe the bulk of tilapia culture destined to feed local markets in developing countries would be unaware and less concerned about the use of hormones to effect all-male tilapia production. While when raising tilapia's in tanks, RAS and BFT two grading's eliminated most of the slow growing female fish at Chambo Fisheries and as such it is not impossible to be highly successful at raising mixed sex tilapia under more intensive conditions. I personally prefer raising mixed sex tilapia to enable the more rapid progression of a built-in genetic selection program (Industrial breeding program characterized by a very large population size (Ne) and high selection pressure), built into the farm infrastructure, based upon minimal mutual relatedness - using a minimum of four sub-sets of distinct populations of tilapia s segregated by genetic drift.
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June 8, 2018

Tilapia culture can be done in coastal of Andhra Pradesh, India. Let me know.

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Biplab Banerjee Biplab Banerjee
M.Sc in Zoology, Ph.D
June 9, 2018

In case, if there is much tilapia fry is observed in a pond please refer to my book published by M/s Duron Agro Industries, wherein my practical experience on removing Tilapia which are competing with other valuable fishes belonging to carp families are written. Please contact Mr. Sekhar Kumar Karmakar, Managing partner of Duron Agro Industries, Kolkata,West Bengal,India.
My experience is, without harming the local fishes of interest, wherever it may be, early fry, fry and advanced fry of T. mossambica and T. nilotica may be eradicated by applying a chemical without any damage to the other commercial fishes of interest.

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June 10, 2018

What is that chemical? Will it not retain residues?

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Barry Brown Barry Brown
Research
June 22, 2018
Dear Mr. Kourie,

As a successful developer of Atlantic seawater Tilapia farming, I specifically appreciated your article re Miracle Fish P1 & 2. Informative and useful. Here in St. Kitts my focus was mainly on Tilapia introduction through research, development and Training. The "St Kitts and Nevis Aquaculture Pilot Project and Environmental Research, is a very small operation using Geo Membrane raceway ponds. The information you presented will help this project to provide a better contribution towards further appropriate development of a viable Aquaculture sector in the Federation. Thank you.
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June 22, 2018

Hi Barry

I'm glad you found value in the article. As mentioned in the article. A new wave of higher quality marine cultivated tilapia distinguished through branding simultaneously scooping-up top honors by seafood sustainability movements (RAS, BFT, IMTA etc) will be key to a new growth phase for tilapia aquaculture.

We all need to stay the course!!!

Best,
Ray Kourie

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June 23, 2018

Way to go.

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Pannita Seareaw Pannita Seareaw
Student
October 13, 2018

Nice forum! I will share it with all of my friends.

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malisa srisiam malisa srisiam
Student
October 20, 2018

The article is very interesting. It is very useful. Thank you very much.

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November 2, 2018
Good news and easy to read. Read it again.
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