Press release

Improved breeding of Nile tilapia leads to productivity gains

Two improved strains of Nile tilapia that grow 30% faster and heavier than non-improved strains are helping to increase aquaculture productivity and food security in West Africa and Egypt.

WorldFish has been working with partners on two breeding programs in Ghana and Egypt to develop the Abbassa and Akosombo strains of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a variety of fish native to much of Africa. Almost 4 million people are employed in the fish farming industry in Africa, and faster growing, heavier fish have financial benefits for farmers who can produce more fish per year. A rise in productivity also increases food security by making fish available and affordable for the growing African population that depend on fish products for nutrition.

Through a selective breeding program in Egypt spanning over 10 years, WorldFish has developed the Abbassa strain that grows 28% faster and heavier than the most commonly used commercial strain in the country, the Kafr El Shaikh strain. Similarly, in Ghana the Water Research Institute (WRI), in partnership with WorldFish, has developed the Akosombo strain, which grows 30% faster than non-improved tilapia. WRI was awarded winner of the National Best Agricultural Researcher Award during the 28th National Farmer's Day 2012 celebration in Ghana for the development of the Akosombo strain.

Producing heavier fish faster means a greater income for Nile tilapia farmers, and is expected to have significant economic benefits for the aquaculture industry in Egypt and Ghana. “The response is phenomenal, the tilapia industry in Ghana is booming with the new Akosombo strain. At the current pace, tilapia production in Ghana is projected to increase tenfold by 2015”, says Dr. Attipoe, the manager at WRI.

The Abbassa and Akosombo strains reach their harvest weight faster compared to non-improved strains, saving both time and money for farmers in terms of labor and fish feed costs. For local consumption, an increase in productivity can result in greater availability of fish in the market, reducing the price of the product and making it more accessible to poor consumers.  Fish contain micronutrients essential for a balanced diet, and increasing the availability and affordability of Nile tilapia will help food and nutrition security in the region.

Dr. Attipoe adds that the Akosombo strain is also benefiting the West African sub-region with surplus fish exported to La Côte d'Ivoire and fingerlings sent to Burkina Faso and Nigeria for breeding. The Abbassa selection line also has the potential to be disseminated outside of Egypt to other Mediterranean and West Asian countries with a similar climate.

Any dissemination of the Abbassa or Akosombo strains is preceded by rigorous scientific testing against local stock and a careful assessment of the local environment to examine any potential risks involved with the dissemination.

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WorldFish, a member of the CGIAR Consortium, is an international, nonprofit research organization. CGIAR is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future.

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Holly Holmes

Communications and Donor Relations Division


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