Category Archives: Environmental Issues
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tanzania, perhaps best known for safaris over its vast open plains, has ambitious plans for diminutive freshwater wildlife with enormous, untapped potential.
Tilapia, second only to carp as the world’s most frequently farmed fish, live in huge numbers in the Great Lakes (Victoria, Tanganyika, Malawi/Nyasa) that cover six percent of the country. The lakes are considered a global biodiversity hotspot – one of only 25 worldwide – due to the hundreds of species of cichlid fish, including some of the 30-odd known subspecies of tilapia that are found in Tanzania.
However, Tanzanians eat on average only 8kg of fish per year, less than half the international average of 17kg. Around a third of children under five are deficient in iron and vitamin A, contributing to stunting, while about a third of women between 15-49 years old are deficient in iron, vitamin A and iodine.
Fish also provide nutrients in a more efficient way than other sources of animal protein because they convert more of their food into body mass. Some types, such as tilapia, are particularly attractive because they can be reared largely on inexpensive vegetable matter and agricultural waste, while many of the fish species reared in the developed world have to be fed on fish meal.
At the moment, tilapia farming in Tanzania is mostly for subsistence or for small-scale markets and often uses non-native species, such as Nile tilapia. Around half of the world’s tilapia species are native to Tanzania, but 99% of commercial production is currently in China, Honduras and the US.
To develop an aquaculture strategy for Tanzania, 30 scientists representing Tanzanian stakeholders as well as international research organisations met for a three-day workshop in Zanzibar. The meeting was funded by the Swedish “Agriculture for Food Security 2030” (AgriFoSe) program and jointly organised by University of Dar Es Salaam, Worldfish Malaysia, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Participation of scientists from Bangor University and Earlham Institute was supported by a BBSRC award from the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF).
The main outcome of this workshop was a new consortium between the partners, committed to establishing a National Aquaculture Development Centre (NADC). The NADC could help triple the contribution that aquaculture makes to the economy, double the production of fish in the country by 2025 and improve access to fish as a protein source – especially for women.
Tilapia species from a broad range of ecosystems – including lakes, river systems, reservoirs and fish ponds across the country – will form the focus of the research. Genetic analysis of 31 species, including 26 that are found nowhere else on the planet, could reveal important traits for creating the country’s own commercial broodstock.
Using native species could also help secure the nation’s biodiversity. For example, it eliminates the risk of non-native strains escaping and hybridising with wild species. One species, Singida tilapia, is virtually extinct in its natural habitat since Nile tilapia and perch were introduced in the 1950s.
Lessons learned from the worldwide aquaculture industry, which in 2013 overtook beef production, will help ensure that sustainable practices are adopted from the start. Tanzania’s unique tilapia could become as valuable as the country’s gold but with more people able to experience the benefits more equally.
Yohana Budeba, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MALF), United Republic of Tanzania, says: “Tanzania attained a GDP per capita of USD 1,043 by 2014 and it is considered to be at the threshold of graduating from Low to Middle Income Country (MIC) by 2025 when the GDP per capita is expected to reach USD 3,000 (nominal)(NFYDP II, 2016). To realize this, Tanzanians must work hard to achieve the development aspirations articulated in the Tanzania Development Vision 2015. The agricultural sector, which supports more that 70% of the national economy, is well placed to contribute significantly to the expected rise in the GDP per capita. The Fisheries sub-sector currently contributes 4.5% of the national GDP and this contribution is expected to rise with the development of semi-intensive and intensive aquaculture in the country. The Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries, therefore takes this opportunity to welcome the Zanzibar Resolution on Aquaculture Development in Tanzania and the international support to aquaculture development in the country. We hope that this support will spur aquaculture development and bring tangible benefits to the country’s economy.”
Charles Mahika, Director of the Aquaculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MALF), United Republic of Tanzania, says: “We have a chance to increase our country’s share in aquaculture’s blue revolution, an industry growing faster than any other food-production sector in the world. Tilapia production could help meet the nutritional demands of our growing population in a sustainable way as well providing a surplus for export. Tapping our own rich diversity will reduce our dependence on external markets, increase food security and make the final product more appealing to Tanzanian consumers. We aim to triple the contribution of aquaculture to GDP from 1.4% to 4.2% by 2025.”
Federica Di Palma, Director of Science, Earlham Institute (EI), says: “By sharing the results of genetic analysis and helping to build expertise, we can make a real contribution to helping to grow a national industry. A Tanzanian aquaculture seed bank could also be valued by breeders worldwide, for example by offering strains adapted to harsh environments. I am grateful to our Global Research Challenge fund awarded by BBSRC, which have allowed us to contribute to this amazing effort and lay the foundations for aquaculture development in Tanzania. It has been an inspiring and humbling experience to be part of this endeavour.”
George Turner, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, says: “I have been studying cichlid fishes for over 30 years and their incredible speciation is not only fascinating for research and worth protecting, but could also harbour valuable traits for developing an independent aquaculture industry. With Earlham Institute we are developing a phone app to help fish farmers check the authenticity of any fingerlings. It could help identify regions particularly rich in pure species, where conservation measures could be put in place. It could also flag up regions with a high number of hybrids that pose a biosecurity risk.”
John Benzie from WorldFish says: “We aim to help transform the productivity of Tanzanian aquaculture while minimising impacts on the environment. We can share best practice from around the world and help train a pool of geneticists in cutting edge breeding technologies that can be used to develop new commercially-viable strains of tilapia. For example, these technologies can be used to isolate beneficial traits such as fast growth while discarding negative traits such as susceptibility to disease.”
Melanie Welham, BBSRC Chief Executive, says: “Investment from the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund can help Tanzanian experts, working with UK researchers, harness their natural resources to sustainably alleviate undernutrition. We are delighted that the workshop held in October has produced an ambitious resolution to improve fish production.”
Dirk-Jan De Koning from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), says: “The provision of healthy fingerlings (young fish) of varieties that are well adapted to local production environments is a key requirement for aquaculture in any country. To establish and maintain a brood stock to supply the industry with fingerlings requires long-term investments in infrastructure and training.
Matern Mtolera, Deputy Director of the Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Dar es Salaam, says: “Our modest success in the past decade in stimulating marine and freshwater tilapia farming include the emergence of enthusiastic small and medium aqua-enterprises that are eager than ever to farm tilapia. With the support from the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) that brings with it a unique set of global expertise joining our effort, Tanzania has a unique opportunity to successfully address her aquaculture farmers’ limitations particularly on unavailability of reliable seed and lack of skills in genetic management of stock.”
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The Earlham Institute (EI) is a leading research institute focusing on the development of genomics and computational biology. EI is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) – £6.45M in 2015/2016 – as well as support from other research funders. EI operates a National Capability to promote the application of genomics and bioinformatics to advance bioscience research and innovation.
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Does selection in a challenging environment produce Nile tilapia genotypes that can thrive in a range of production systems?
Authors: Ngo Phu Thoa, Nguyen Huu Ninh, Wayne Knibb & Nguyen Hong Nguyen
This study assessed whether selection for high growth in a challenging environment of medium salinity produces tilapia genotypes that perform well across different production environments. We estimated the genetic correlations between trait expressions in saline and freshwater using a strain of Nile tilapia selected for fast growth under salinity water of 15–20 ppt. We also estimated the heritability and genetic correlations for new traits of commercial importance (sexual maturity, feed conversion ratio, deformity and gill condition) in a full pedigree comprising 36,145 fish. The genetic correlations for the novel characters between the two environments were 0.78–0.99, suggesting that the effect of genotype by environment interaction was not biologically important. Across the environments, the heritability for body weight was moderate to high (0.32–0.62), indicating that this population will continue responding to future selection. The estimates of heritability for sexual maturity and survival were low but significant. The additive genetic components also exist for FCR, gill condition and deformity. Genetic correlations of harvest body weight with sexual maturity were positive and those between harvest body weight with FCR were negative. Our results indicate that the genetic line selected under a moderate saline water environment can be cultured successfully in freshwater systems.
See full article
Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 21486 (2016)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
A 2014 report on aquaculture in Egypt presents some interesting information:
- Despite the pressure on water, Egypt has the largest aquaculture industry in Africa with a market value of over $1.3 billion.
- The industry now provides 65% of the country’s fish needs, with virtually all the output coming from small and medium-scale privately owned farms.
- The main farmed fish is Nile tilapia and Egypt is the world’s second largest producer of farmed tilapia after China. Grey mullet and carp are also farmed, sometimes in mixed ponds with tilapia.
- From small levels of production in the early 1990s fish farming has expanded rapidly while capture fishing has remained fairly constant, even declining somewhat after peaking at the beginning of the 21st century.
- Aquaculture is also important in providing employment to an estimated 100,000 people of whom 50% are youth.
- With the exception of Fayoum, aquaculture takes place in the Nile Delta region and mainly around the Northern Lakes area.
Citation: Mur, R. 2014. Development of the aquaculture value chain in Egypt: Report of the National Innovation Platform Workshop, Cairo, 19-20 February 2014. Cairo: WorldFish.
An Industry Assessment of Tilapia Farming in Egypt
Dr. Adel A. Shaheen, B.V.Sc., M.V.Sc., Ph.D.
Professor of fish diseases & management Head Department of fish diseases & management
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Benha University Moshtohor – Toukh – Egypt
2.5. Status of fish production in Egypt
Capture fisheries in Egypt are in decline due to; overfishing, pollution, illegal, unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU), relaxation in the implementation of laws and regulations, lack of interest in clearing Straits and waterways, poor sustainable management of fisheries and aquaculture, illegal fishing operations of fry. In addition to the building of Aswan High Dam (that reduced the annual flood cycle of the Nile), the application of partial pond flushing, aeration and sex reversal are the major steps that contributed to the expansion,
intensification and growth of total tilapia production in ponds in Egypt.
The General Authority for Fish Resources Development (GAFRD) planned two-sided strategy aims to increase the productivity of freshwater aquaculture operations, while encouraging investment in marine aquaculture.
A cooperation agreement between Egypt’s General Authority for Fish Resources Development (GAFRD) and Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) inked in May sets a framework for joint fisheries development. The protocol encourages researchers, trainers and quality control technicians in the two countries to share data, and calls for exchange visits of fisheries and aquaculture officials