A three-year project by the World Fish Center, “Improving the technological foundations for sustainable aquaculture”, focuses on poor communities in Bangladesh, Egypt, Kenya and Mozambique, where small-scale aquaculture is important for rural livelihoods. According to a press release by WorldFish, the aim of the research is to ensure that improved strains of tilapia, Indian carp and African catfish – important species of food fish that are also easy to farm – become more widely available, are farmed sustainably and are distributed equitably.
Fish is an affordable animal source of protein, and often the primary source of nutrition, in some of the poorest countries. Fish contains nutrients and micronutrients that are essential to cognitive and physical development, especially in children, and are an important part of a healthy diet.
Developing a new strain of fish can take five to ten years of research, note the experts of WorldFish and add that the project therefore builds on WorldFish’s extensive knowledge and experience in genetic improvement and dissemination activities across Africa and Asia over the last three decades.
WorldFish has developed and maintained the Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT) and Abbassa strains, which are more productive and grow faster than other local strains and have made important contributions to aquaculture world-wide.
These improved strains are already available in at least 14 countries, including Bangladesh (GIFT) and Egypt (Abbassa), and likewise have potential to assist Kenya and Mozambique increase their aquaculture production, the experts say in the press release. The project aims to further develop the improved strains and make high quality seed more accessible to farmers in the target countries.
WorldFish experts note that it is also working in Bangladesh to develop an improved strain of Indian carp, which represents a large proportion of the country’s aquaculture production, and in Egypt to develop an improved strain of African catfish, the second-most farmed fish in Africa after tilapia.
Michael Phillips, Director, Aquaculture and Fisheries Sciences, WorldFish, says: “In agriculture, improved strains of crops and livestock have made a tremendous impact on productivity and incomes for farmers. The potential to replicate this success for fish has huge implications for global food and nutrition security. By developing and disseminating improved strains, WorldFish can help the poor attain nutritious, affordable food and an income through small-scale aquaculture.”
The improved strains will be developed at WorldFish sites in Bangladesh, Egypt and Malaysia, and disseminated with the assistance of national government departments and the private sector. The project, which ends in September 2019, is expected to improve food security, increase fish production and productivity of aquatic systems, and enhance the nutritional status of women and children.
WorldFish is an international, non-profit research organisation that harnesses the potential of fisheries and aquaculture to reduce hunger and poverty. It is a member of CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future.