FAO issues alert over lethal virus affecting popular tilapia fish

Though not a human health risk, Tilapia Lake Virus has large potential impact on global food security and nutrition

26 May 2017, Rome–A highly contagious disease is spreading among farmed and wild tilapia, one of the world’s most important fish for human consumption.

The outbreak should be treated with concern and countries importing tilapias should take appropriate risk-management measures – intensifying diagnostics testing, enforcing health certificates, deploying quarantine measures and developing contingency plans – according to a Special Alert released today by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warnings System.

Tilapia Lake Virus (TiLV) has now been reported in five countries on three continents: Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Israel and Thailand.

While the pathogen poses no public health concern, it can decimate infected populations. In 2015, world tilapia production, from both aquaculture and capture, amounted to 6.4 million tonnes, with an estimated value of USD 9.8 billion, and worldwide trade was valued at USD1.8 billion. The fish is a mainstay of global food security and nutrition, GIEWS said.

Joyce Makaka tends her FAO-assisted fish farm in western Kenya.

Joyce Makaka tends her FAO-assisted fish farm in western Kenya.

Tilapia producing countries need to be vigilant, and should follow aquatic animal-health code protocols of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) when trading tilapia. They should initiate an active surveillance programme to determine the presence or absence of TiLV, the geographic extent of the infection and identify risk factors that may help contain it.

Countries are encouraged also to launch public information campaigns to advise aquaculturists – many of them smallholders – of TiLV’s clinical signs and the economic and social risks it poses and the need to flag large-scale mortalities to biosecurity authorities.

Currently, actively TiLV surveillance is being conducted in China, India, Indonesia and it is planned to start in the Philippines. In Israel, an epidemiological retrospective survey is expected to determine factors influencing low survival rates and overall mortalities including relative importance of TiLV. In addition, a private company is currently working on the development of live attenuated vaccine for TiLV.

It is not currently known whether the disease can be transmitted via frozen tilapia products, but “it is likely that TiLV may have a wider distribution than is known today and its threat to tilapia farming at the global level is significant,” GIEWS said in its alert.

FAO will continue to monitor TiLV, work with governments and development partners and search for resources that can be explored in order to assist FAO member countries to deal with TiLV, as requested and as necessary.

The disease

There are many knowledge gaps linked to TiLV.

More research is required to determine whether TiLV is carried by non-tilapine species and other organisms such as piscivorous birds and mammals, and whether it can be transmitted through frozen tilapia products.

The disease shows highly variable mortality, with outbreaks in Thailand triggering the deaths of up to 90 percent of stocks. Infected fish often show loss of appetite, slow movements, dermal lesions and ulcers, ocular abnormalities, and opacity of lens.As a reliable diagnostic test for TiLV is available, it should be applied to rule out TiLV as the causal agent of unexplained mortalities.

TiLV belongs to the Orthomyxoviridae family of viruses, which is also the same family to which the Infectious Salmon Anaemia virus belongs, which wrought great damage on the salmon farming industry.

In May 2017, The Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) released a TiLV Disease Advisory and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) released a Disease Card. The WorldFish Center also released a Factsheet: TiLV: what to know and do, this month.

The importance of tilapia

Tilapias are the second most important aquaculture species in volume termsproviding food, jobs and domestic and export earnings for millions of people, including many smallholders.

Their affordable price, omnivorous diet, tolerance to high-density farming methods and usually strong resistance to disease makes them an important protein source, especially in developing countries and for poorer consumers.

China, Indonesia and Egypt are the three leading aquaculture producers of tilapia, a fish deemed to have great potential for expansion in sub-Saharan Africa.

Contact

Christopher Emsden
FAO Media Relations (Rome)
(+39) 06 570 53291
christopher.emsden@fao.org

 

Adding Value to African Aquaculture Production

BioMar Group has an increasing presence in Africa and is now launching a complete high performing range for tilapia and African catfish for African markets.

Africa is a continent with huge demands for more food, produced in a responsible and sustainable way. “We believe that aquaculture is one of the answers to this demand”, said Ole Christensen, Vice President for BioMar’s EMEA division. “BioMar Group has ambitious targets and initiatives for shaping an efficient and sustainable global aquaculture in collaboration with the entire aquaculture value chain.”

In recent years, the growth of African catfish and tilapia farming has increased particularly in the African markets. For many years, BioMar has served the African markets from France by offering high performing starter and grower diets for these species. As farms become increasingly intensive, the need for a diet targeted for broodstock has grown. To meet this demand, BioMar France now expands its product range to cover all nutritional needs of these species at all stages of their life cycle by introducing broodstock feed type EFICO Genio 838F, available for all tilapia and African catfish farmers in Africa and other markets served by BioMar’s EMEA division.

As in Africa, tilapia is also a popular aquaculture species in Central America. Cross-utilising knowledge and expertise in aquafeed across borders and continents is one of BioMar’s important strengths, and it was central in developing BioMar’s feed range for tilapia. Global R&D at BioMar has in close collaboration with our unit in Costa Rica carried out research on this species and developed high value feed types, which have been fine-tuned by working in close collaboration with an intensive tilapia farm.

Tilapia in net (credit Biomar)

“The goal of broodstock feed EFICO Genio 838F is to increase reproduction capacity”, said Michel Autin, Technical Director of BioMar EMEA. “The vitamin mix and levels are fine-tuned to promote an increase in the number of females actively spawning.  Our newly developed broodstock feed has a formulation that includes the necessary protein and vitamin balances, which contributes to increased spawning frequency, hatchability, and survival of fry.“ The EFICO Genio 838F includes the probiotic Bactocell®* and immune modulating ingredients similar to BioMar’s EFICO Genio broodstock feeds for trout, sea bass and sea bream to improve survival and boost the immune system.

“These efforts have been of great value to the development of the feeds offered by BioMar for warm freshwater fish like tilapia and African catfish”, said Michel Autin. “And now we can, for the first time, provide a broodstock diet that is specialized for warm freshwater fish whose natural diet is largely plant based.”

African aquaculture production is expanding in various ways and into various species. BioMar’s presence in Africa steadily grows. The markets served by BioMar are not limited to tilapia and catfish. “We have for many years also supplied feed to a growing number of sea bass and sea bream farms based in Northern African countries. We aim to add value to African aquaculture production. We listen to and react based on the needs of our customers as we want to act as a locally responsive, agile, and specialized aquaculture feed provider, building our efforts on the four fundamental pillars: Innovation, Performance, Sustainability, and Cooperation,” Ole Christensen concluded.

* Bactocell® is the only probiotic approved by the European Commission for inclusion in fish feed.

For further information please contact:

Vice President, BioMar EMEA Division

Ole Christensen
Email: och@biomar.com

Technical Director, BioMar EMEA Division

Michel Autin
Email: michel.autin@biomar.fr

Tilapia lake virus (TiLV): What to know and do?

Tilapia lake virus is a newly emerging virus that is associated with significant mortalities in farmed tilapia. With cases reported across Africa, Asia and South America, the virus represents a huge risk to the USD 7.5 billion global tilapia industry. All countries with a tilapia industry must be vigilant and act quickly to investigate cases of mortalities in farm.
Published by the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-food Systems.

Tilapia Market Expects Reduction in Tilapia Price to Boost Demand Significantly

The Tilapia Market deals with the development and distribution of the cichlid fish. Tilapia fingerlings belong to tribe known as tilapiine cichlid and number in around 100 different species. Fresh tilapia are largely restricted to freshwater bodies like ponds, lakes and rivers.

The Tilapia Market has recently come into prominence as the fields of aquaculture and aquaponics gain in size and revenue. Tilapia farming is extremely popular owing to the low price of live tilapia, ease of preparing tilapia food due to its boneless nature and its mildness as far as taste is concerned. The low tilapia price has ensure that it is usually among the top 5 fresh seafood varieties consumed in the US.

Scope & Regional Forecast of the Tilapia Market

In recent years, the Tilapia Market has witnessed that fresh tilapia species from North Africa are most popular on a commercial basis. This popularity is due to peculiar characteristics like rapid pace of growth, high tolerance to density of stocking, and high levels of adaptability. This species is pretty popular in Asia. On the other hand, the US is a very popular destination for frozen tilapia. China is not only the leading exporter of this variety, but also of whole tilapia.

Traditionally, the European Union has been a big market for fresh seafood. But in recent times, imports have declined as only Germany and Netherlands are exhibiting a strong appetite for tilapia fingerlings. Vietnam’s tilapia farming operations has received a significant amount of encouragement from the government in the form of various initiatives and research studies. Supply links between various major parties like producers, processors and international distributors have also been strengthened in the country.

While there is heavy competition for other cheap fish varieties, the demand for live tilapia is expected to hold steady. The demand is also expected to spike on an annual basis due to the Chinese New Year.

Segmentations & Key Manufacturers Involved in the Tilapia Market

The Tilapia Market can be broken down into various segmentations on the basis of –

Manufacturer: China, Egypt, USA, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Ecuador, Myanmar, Malaysia, Uganda and Bangladesh.

Application: Household Consumption and Business.

Type: Tilapia and Tilapia Fillet.

Geographical Location: North America (USA, Canada and Mexico), Europe (Germany, France, UK, Russia and Italy), Asia-Pacific (China, Japan, Korea, India and Southeast Asia) and Latin America, Middle East and Africa.

Contact:  To purchase report, see www.marketintelreports.com

Scientists identify tilapia lake virus in Egypt

A new virus that has decimated tilapia populations in Ecuador and Israel has now been found in Egypt according to a new report from WorldFish in partnership with the University of Stirling, Scotland. Scientists are now trying to establish a firm link between the virus and a recent surge in mortalities in Egyptian farmed tilapia.

Tilapia Lake Virus (TiLV) is a global threat to the tilapia farming industry worth US$7.5bn per year.

In recent years fish farms in Egypt have seen increased mortality of farmed tilapia in the summer months, so-called “summer mortality”. Epidemiological surveys indicated that 37% of fish farms were affected in 2015 with an average mortality rate of 9.2% and an estimated economic impact of around US$100 million/year.

Identifying the cause of and preventing these fish deaths is of significant importance in Egypt, which relies on domestic aquaculture for 60% of fish consumed with tilapia making up 75% of that production. Tilapia is the cheapest form of animal protein in the country, so the findings have significant implications for the Egyptian people, particularly poorer consumers. The Egyptian aquaculture sector is the largest producer of farmed fish in Africa (1.17 million tonnes in 2015) and the third largest global producer of farmed tilapia after China and Indonesia.

Tissue samples from seven farms affected by ‘summer mortality’ were tested at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture for TiLV with three of the seven samples testing positive.

Dr Michael Phillips, Director of Science and Aquaculture, WorldFish: “Tilapia were previously considered to have good disease resistance. While the report and the emergence of TiLV will likely not dent the species’ significance in global aquaculture it is a sign that greater efforts must be made to manage disease risks in tilapia farming. Research now needs to focus on finding solutions for this emerging challenge to the world’s tilapia farms.”

“Globally, there is no aquaculture system that is free from the risk of disease,” explains virologist Professor Manfred Weidmann from the University of Stirling. “Unless we are able to manage disease, minimize its impact, and bring down the prevalence and incidence of diseases we will not be able to meet future demand for fish.”

WorldFish scientists in collaboration with the University of Stirling will now work to establish whether TiLV is the primary cause of ‘summer mortality’ and, if that is the case, recommend rapid action to control the spread of the disease, including increased biosecurity in the short term. Longer-term strategies being studied by WorldFish and partners include vaccines and the genetics of disease resistance, that may open the way towards breeding of strains of tilapia that are resilient to TiLV.

Tilapia is an important species for aquaculture because it can be grown in diverse farming systems and is omnivorous, requiring minimal fishmeal in its feed. It has a naturally high tolerance to variable water quality and can grow in both freshwater and brackishwater environments. Tilapia are particularly important in developing world contexts where they are inexpensive and easy for small-scale farmers to grow for food, nutrition and income.

About WorldFish
WorldFish is an international, nonprofit research organization that harnesses the potential of fisheries and aquaculture to reduce hunger and poverty. Globally, more than one billion poor people obtain most of their animal protein from fish and 800 million depend on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods. WorldFish is a member of CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future.

About CGIAR
CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. Its science is carried out by the 15 research Centers that are members of the CGIAR Consortium in collaboration with hundreds of partners.

University of Stirling
The University of Stirling is ranked fifth in Scotland and 40th in the UK for research intensity in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. Stirling is committed to providing education with a purpose and carrying out research which has a positive impact on communities across the globe – addressing real issues, providing solutions and helping to shape society.