Egypt faces a growing population and shrinking supplies of water. The Ministry of Agriculture recognizes that increasing crop and livestock production per unit of water and land is an essential priority. Fish has been identified as one of the two most important livestock sub-sectors for future national food security. However, to meet the growing demand for fish in the face of static returns from capture fisheries, new supplies will have to come from aquaculture and increasing the productivity of already existing fish farms.
In terrestrial farmed animal and plant species genetic improvement programs have made a substantial contribution to productivity increases and to industry viability. By contrast, most aquaculture stocks in current use are genetically similar or inferior to their wild, undomesticated counterparts. However, we now know that genetic improvement programs implemented in aquatic animal species can have the same positive effect they have had in livestock and crops. GIFT (Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia, a strain of the Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus) and Jayanti Rohu (Labeo rohita) are two examples of genetically improved strains of fish where the resulting improvements in growth and survival have proved both appealing and valuable to farmers.
This project is targeted at increasing the production of fish through the development of a national breeding program for genetically improved Nile tilapia. WorldFish is working with the Egyptian Central Laboratory for Aquaculture Research (CLAR) and industry players to produce-within two years-a strain of Nile tilapia that grows about 20% faster than existing commercial strains under prevailing Egyptian pond conditions. This new strain will form the nucleus of a long-term national breeding program designed to deliver superior strains of farmed fish.
The small but cumulative generation-by-generation responses to selection shown in the new strain can then be passed over to a multiplier tier of hatcheries and in turn, from hatcheries to farmers. The potential for expression of small changes in thousands or millions of animals is what makes genetic improvement programs one of the most powerful and least expensive means of increasing the efficiency of aquaculture.
Investment in People
The project is building scientific and management capacity among Egyptian scientific staff at CLAR for the long-term management of a genetic improvement program. WorldFish will also assess the technical and human capacity challenges and produce an investment plan for the development and management of a national breeding centre.
Partner farmers will be sought to share risks and investment to conduct the on-farm production trials, collecting data on growth rates, final body weights, survival and production in mixed stock trials in relation to pond environment and feed management.
Investment in Infrastructure
A review of the Egyptian hatchery industry will be carried out to determine the technological basis of production, assess technical and management capacity, and examine production economics and seed market chains. Various economic models for private-public-partnerships will be explored for sustaining the multiplication and dissemination of the genetically improved seed.
This project is producing a faster growing strain of farmed tilapia and a development plan to meet present and future needs for aquaculture, thereby facilitating increased farmed fish supplies to meet national food security needs and reducing demands on water and land.