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Genetically improved tilapia shows major weight gain

Through a selective breeding program conducted from 1988 to 1997, WorldFish and a host of collaborators developed a strain of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) with superior growth and survival traits. The aim was to help small-scale fish farmers in developing countries improve productivity and profitability. In a newly published study, WorldFish scientists determined that this so-called GIFT fish (for “genetically improved farmed tilapia”) has achieved a total genetic gain in live weight of at least 64% over nine generations since the base population was established, without any deterioration in survival rate. The results were obtained by comparing progeny produced from cryopreserved spermatozoa of males born in 1991 with that of freshly collected spermatozoa from males born in 2003. GIFT and GIFT-derived strains are now being grown widely across Asia, which today produces about 80% of all farmed tilapia. As many countries of sub-Saharan Africa look to build aquaculture industries, these findings suggest that the introduction of GIFT strains could lead to significant payoffs in productivity.

In a separate study, WorldFish researchers set out to assess the economic gains a country could expect to derive from undertaking a genetic improvement program involving Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). The economic benefits were studied in relation to a number of biological, economic and operational factors over a 10-year time horizon. The authors concluded that even under the most conservative assumptions, genetic improvement programs are highly beneficial from an economic viewpoint; in the case studied, the expected benefits ranged from more than US$4 million to as much as $32 million.

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