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Muhammad Junaid Wattoo

Introduction of Tilapia Farming in Pakistan: A success story of Fisheries Development Board

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The Fisheries Development Board (FDB) of Pakistan was established in 2007 with the goal of promoting the development of the fisheries sector in the country. The FDB is a public sector organization that operates under the administrative control of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research and is responsible for implementing policies and programs aimed at enhancing the productivity and sustainability of the fisheries industry.

To achieve its goals, the FDB has implemented a range of initiatives aimed at expanding the aquaculture sector in Pakistan. These include providing technical assistance and training to farmers, help developing infrastructure such as hatcheries and feed mills, and promoting the use of modern technologies and best practices in fish farming. One of the key species that the FDB has focused on promoting in aquaculture is tilapia. This is due to tilapia’s hardiness and fast growth rate, which makes it an ideal species for aquaculture in Pakistan’s diverse aquatic environments.

In 2008, the Fisheries Development Board received funding under a PSDP funded development project title “Aquaculture and Shrimp Farming Project” with the aim, among other, to promote the cage culture of tilapia. Cage culture involves the cultivation of fish in large net cages suspended in open water bodies such as lakes, reservoirs, and rivers. This method of fish farming is particularly well-suited to Pakistan’s topography, which is characterized by a large number of rivers, canals, and lakes.

In order to promote the cage culture of tilapia, the Fisheries Development Board imported the first floating cages from Taiwan. These cages were designed specifically for the culture of tilapia and were made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) material, which is lightweight, durable, and resistant to corrosion. Fisheries Development Board installed the imported floating cages in five selected water bodies across the country, one in each province and one in AJK. These water bodies were chosen based on a range of factors, including their size, water quality, and accessibility to fish farmers. The selected water bodies included Mangla Dam in AJK, Dhurabi Dam in Punjab, Keenjhar Lake in Sindh, Mirani Dam in Balochistan and Khanpur Dam in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The installation of the cages was a collaborative effort between the FDB and provincial fisheries departments and local fish farmers.

Fisheries Development Board faced two challenges initially. The first challenge was the availability of tilapia seed, which refers to the young fish that are used for stocking cages. There was no Tilapia hatchery in Pakistan, and the FDB had to import tilapia seed from other countries, first consignment was imported from Thailand.

In response to this challenge, the FDB took several steps to increase the availability of tilapia seed in Pakistan. This included provision of free of cost imported GIFT tilapia seed to some fish farmers and carp hatchery operators to try breeding of tilapia species. The seed was provided by Government of Thailand to facilitated promotion of tilapia farming in Pakistan. Over time, these efforts helped to improve the availability and quality of tilapia seed in Pakistan, which reduced the country’s dependence on imports. Now many tilapia hatcheries are operating in Pakistan and providing mono sex tilapia seed to fish farmers.

The second challenge was the availability of floating fish feed, which is a specially formulated feed that is designed to float on the water surface and provide balanced nutrition to the fish. At that time, there were absolutely no options for floating fish feed in Pakistan, and the FDB had to import the feed from other countries, again first-time feed was imported from USA with the assistance of American Soyabean Association. The use of imported fish feed was an expensive option and made the cage culture of tilapia less economically viable. In response to this challenge, the FDB mobilized private sector poultry feed millers to produce floating fish feed. Over time, these efforts helped to improve the availability and quality of floating fish feed in Pakistan, which made the cage culture of tilapia more economically viable.

The FDB to popularize tilapia culture among fish farmers in Pakistan has organized many road shows for several years. These road shows have been conducted mostly in Punjab but also in other parts of the country, with the aim of raising awareness about the benefits of tilapia farming and providing technical guidance to fish farmers interested in starting their own tilapia farms. During these road shows, experts from the FDB, Punjab Fisheries Department and private sector provided information on various aspects of tilapia farming, including pond construction, seed selection, feeding, and disease management. The road shows organized by the FDB have been highly successful in promoting the development of tilapia farming in Pakistan. They have helped to increase awareness about the potential of the aquaculture industry and the opportunities available to fish farmers. Many farmers who attended these road shows have been motivated to start their own tilapia farms. The Fisheries Development Board has also played a key role in ensuring the availability of high-quality tilapia seed for fish farmers interested in starting their own tilapia farms. To meet the growing demand for tilapia seed, the FDB has imported tilapia seed from Thailand on a collective bargaining basis. This initiative has been highly successful in providing fish farmers with access to high-quality tilapia seed at affordable prices. By importing tilapia seed on a collective bargaining basis, the FDB has been able to leverage the buying power of multiple fish farmers by negotiating favorable prices from suppliers on bulk supply orders by the FDB on behalf of fish farmers. This has made it possible for even small-scale fish farmers to obtain high-quality tilapia seed at a reasonable cost.

The imported tilapia seed has been rigorously tested by the FDB to ensure that it is disease-free and of high quality. The seed is then distributed to fish farmers who started their own tilapia farms. The FDB provides technical guidance and support to these farmers to ensure that they are able to raise healthy and productive tilapia that meets the requirements of the local market.

Tilapia hatcheries are becoming increasingly popular in Pakistan due to the growing demand for fish as a source of protein in the country. As a result, many hatcheries have started producing tilapia seed to meet the growing demand. Along with the increase in tilapia hatcheries, there has also been a rise in the production of floating fish feed in Pakistan. The feed is produced by many feed plants across the country, and it is available in different formulations and sizes to meet the needs of different fish farmers.

The production of tilapia seed and floating fish feed has created new opportunities for farmers in Pakistan to enter the aquaculture industry and earn a livelihood. It has also helped to meet the growing demand for fish in the country and reduce the dependence on imports. As a result, the aquaculture sector is expected to continue growing in the coming years, with more hatcheries and feed plants expected to be established to meet the growing demand.

In conclusion, the increasing production of tilapia seed and floating fish feed in Pakistan has opened up new opportunities for fish farmers and reduced the country’s dependence on imported fish. The promotion of tilapia farming has been made possible by the efforts of the Fisheries Development Board in partnership with provincial fisheries departments, fish farmers, hatchery operators, feed millers and international organizations. The FDB has been instrumental in promoting the development of the aquaculture industry in Pakistan through the provision of technical assistance and training to fish farmers and entrepreneurs. With the continued support of the FDB and other stakeholders, the aquaculture sector in Pakistan is poised for further growth, providing new avenues for sustainable economic development and food security in the country.

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