Title: Developing Sustainable Aquaculture for Coastal and Tilapia Systems in the Americas

Lead US University: University of Arizona

Theme: Environmental Management for Sustainable Aquatic Resources Use

Host Country & Partner Institutions:

  • US: Texas Tech University, Lubbock
  • Guyana: Department of Fisheries
  • Mexico: Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas, Ciudad Victoria & Reynosa, Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco

Research in Mexico and Guyana was carried out from 2006-2013 and made progress to address the aquaculture challenges in these respective countries through capacity building and technical support. Building on longstanding relationships in Mexico, this project resulted in several achievements Advances in the science of snook reproductive biology led to successful spawning in captivity. With captive broodstocks and induced spawning, the long-term goal is to enhance stocks and help to replenish overfished snook in the Gulf of Mexico. Domestication also holds promise for small-scale farmers in the region. Advances in the husbandry of two native cichlids, the Tenhuayaca (P. splendida) and Castarrica (C. urophthalmus), also focused on the restocking potential of these fishes. Additional efforts toward their domestication as food fish are well underway with captive spawning and other techniques transferring to the private sector. Progress was achieved regarding the problem of hormone residues (methyltestosterone) escaping from hatcheries by testing the success of methods such as directed bacterial degradation and titanium dioxide treatments. 

In Guyana, efforts were made to expand tilapia and indigenous fish aquaculture development. Locally available ingredients were also tested and developed to bring cost-effective practical fish diet options to local farms. 

The outreach portion of the project was equally successful. The Eighth International Symposium on Tilapia in Aquaculture (ISTA) had over 500 participants and the Ninth ISTA conference, held in Shanghai China, received more than 1000 participants. The number of completed training sessions, workshops, field days, conference sessions, presentations, and symposia exceeded expectations. An internship program between Mexican universities and US tilapia farmers proved to be especially beneficial for almost a dozen interns and the US and Mexican tilapia farms. 

  • Consolidation of Native Species Aquaculture in Southeastern Mexico: Continuation of a Selective Breeding Program for Native Cichlids and Snook Reproduction in Captivity - 09IND05UA (Final Report)
  • Reaching the Farms Through AquaFish CRSP Technology Transfer: Elimination of MT from Intensive Masculinization Systems Using Bacterial - 09MNE07UA (Final Report)
  • Sustainable Integrated Tilapia Aquaculture: Aquaponics and Evaluation of Fingerling Quality in Tabasco, Mexico - 09QSD02UA (Final Report)
  • Expansion of Tilapia and Indigenous Fish Aquaculture in Guyana: Opportunities for Women - 09SFT03UA (Final Report)
  • Aquaculture and Fisheries CRSP Sponsorship of the Ninth International Symposium on Tilapia in Aquaculture to be held in Shanghai, China - 09TAP01UA (Final Report)
  • Experimental Pond Unit Assessment in Kenya - 09BMA11UA (Final Report)
  • Value Chain Analysis of Tilapia in Southern Mexico - 09MER08UA (Final Report)

Project Summary

The aquaculture industry in Central and South America is dominated by shrimp and tilapia culture. While these industries have generated thousands of jobs, millions of dollars of exports and improved household nutrition, we feel that great strides can be made to make aquaculture more sustainable and profitable in the region. We believe that though use of polyculture, domestication of native species, and integration of aquaculture with agriculture, aquaculture can produce fewer environmental externalities while at the same time improving production efficiencies and increasing profits. 

The team from Mexico, Guyana and the University of Arizona feel that we have made solid progress in the first phase to address these issues and expect to build upon these successes. We believe that we can further expand our outreach to additional audiences, further improve the skills of those we have worked with in the first phase, and conduct additional trials to develop more cost effective diets, improve environmental sustainability of aquaculture in Mexico and Guyana, and raise the profile of the AquaFish CRSP and USAID as critical supporters of sustainable aquaculture in these countries. 

In the first phase of the Developing Sustainable Aquaculture for Coastal and Tilapia Systems in the Americas project our group had several notable achievements. Advances were reported on the reproductive biology of the snook. With captive broodstocks and induced spawning, we hope to eventually have the capability of stock enhancement and replenishing the overfished stocks of snook in the Gulf of Mexico. The advances in husbandry of two native cichlids, the Tenhuayaca (P. splendida) and Castarrica (C. urophthalmus), are equally impressive. The potential that both of these fishes could be restocked and domesticated as food fish are well on the way to fruition with captive spawning and transfer of the techniques to the private sector. The problem of hormone residues escaping from hatcheries using methyltestosterone, was addressed with directed bacterial degradation and through the use of titanium dioxide. In Guyana, a number for locally available ingredients were examined for use in fish diets. The proximate and mineral analyses allowed us to develop cost-effective practical diets for use on local farms. The experimental diets are now being tested with replicated trials of fingerlings and adult fish. 

The outreach portion of the project has been equally successful. The Eighth International Symposium on Tilapia in Aquaculture had over 500 participants and the Ninth ISTA to be held in Shanghai China should have over 1000 participants, including many of our AquaFish colleagues. The number of training sessions, workshops, field days, conference sessions and presentations and symposia completed exceeded our expectations and we hope to further that success. An intern program between Mexican universities and US tilapia farmers proved to be especially useful for almost a dozen interns and the US and Mexican tilapia farms. We expect to also direct our workshops and training efforts to serve women to increase their participation in aquaculture and preparation of healthy seafood. 

Our proposed research will address several critical issues of special concern to aquaculture producers in Mexico and Guyana. One is the use of locally produced protein sources for the replacement of fishmeal in tilapia, pacu and shrimp diets. Another is the management of YY supermale and GIFT strain tilapia stocks. In both cases the project will assist by providing nucleus breeding centers and support for pedigreed selective breeding programs. We will also evaluate these strains with others already available to local growers. To be clear, we will not be involved with introductions of new species. In fact, we will not even be involved with the importations of new strains. The Mexican and Guyana governments have already started the imports. We will assist to document the impacts and train staff on hatchery techniques and how to maintain pedigree records. It should be remembered that Nile Tilapia is already a significant industry in both countries and their surrounding neighbor countries. In fact in Mexico, Nile tilapia represents a $300,000,000 annual industry producing 100,000 metric tons of fish for domestic consumption, with registered farms in every state in Mexico. The YY supermale Nile tilapia that are genetically male are much less likely to become established in the wild, compared to precociously spawning Nile tilapia that are mixed sex populations. 

The integrated aquaculture and agriculture (hydroponics, vegetables, and field crop culture) research has garnered enormous interest. Several groups have requested collaborations ranging from small farmer cooperatives, to government agencies (INIFAP, EPA), NGO's (Farmer to Farmer, Partners of the Americas), the Peanut CRSP, and even the investment firm Goldman Sachs. Integrated aquaculture-agriculture may be one of the most long lasting contributions of the project. Demonstration and research result supported outreach could help the Western Hemisphere aquaculture producers develop an industrial version of the small-scale integrated fish, rice, and vegetable production common across eastern and southern Asia. This could contribute to a quantum step forward in productivity and sustainability, vastly improving the quantity, quality, and profitability of both crops and seafood. Increased farm efficiency and training in handling of aquaculture products should improve household nutrition, income and overall welfare. These improvements in the welfare of the rural poor will help both the residents of the host country and reduce the need for citizens of the host countries to migrate to other countries in search of improved circumstances.

  • Co-sponsorship of "Second International Workshop on the Cultivation and Biotechnology of Marine Algae: An Alternative for Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean" - 07BMA03UA (Final Report)
  • Utilization of Local Feed Ingredients for Tilapia and Pacu Production - 07SFT04UA (Final Report)
  • Development of Snook (Centropomus spp) Seed Production Technology for Application in Aquaculture and Restocking of Over-fished Populations - 07IND01UA (Final Report)
  • Elimination of MT from Aquaculture Masculinization Systems: use of Catalysis with Titanium Dioxide and Bacterial Degradation - 07MNE06UA (Final Report)
  • Incorporation of the Native Cichlids, tenhuayaca, Petenia splendida and Castarrica, Cichlasoma urophthalmus into Sustainable Aquaculture in Central America: Improvement of Seedstock and Substitution of Fish Meal Use in Diets - 07IND02UA Food Safety Study of Leafy Greens Irrigated with Tilapia Farm Effluents - 07HHI02UA (Final Report)
  • Local Ingredients Substituting for Fishmeal in Tilapia and Pacu Diets in Guyana - 07SFT05UA (Final Report)
  • AquaFish CRSP Sponsorship of the Eighth International Symposium on Tilapia in Aquaculture to be Held in Egypt - 07TAP03UA (Final Report)

Project Summary

The recent rapid growth of aquaculture has been a boon to many developing countries. Local consumption of aquaculture products and export of surplus production has improved both household nutrition and standard of living. Most cultured species are popular foods in local cuisines, representing multi-billions of dollars in local sales and international exports that are critical to developing economies. Unfortunately, the environmental impacts of aquaculture practices have been considerable. Demand for fishmeal and fish oil for aquaculture diets has grown to be a significant percentage of global markets. Effluents from aquaculture farms have contributed to eutrophication of receiving waters. As the economic and social importance of aquaculture products grows, it is imperative that scientists in both producing and consuming countries collaborate to develop diets and production systems that mitigate environmental impacts and reduce demands on limited resources.

This project builds on the former ACRSP’s research and outreach by linking a series of research investigations and activities focused on (1) developing multiple use and polyculture systems to reduce impacts of effluents on the environment, with special focus on marine macroalgae (seaweeds); (2) developing indigenous species of cichlids and snook for aquaculture; (3) examining the bacterial degradation of methyltestosterone (MT) from hatchery effluent; (4) determining the food safety aspect of leafy vegetable crops grown with aquaculture effluents; (5) testing locally available protein and lipid sources to replace fish meal and fish oils in practical diets for tilapia, native cichlids, snook, and pacu; and (6) developing and providing improved lines of tilapia for aquaculture across Central America. Associated outreach activities include workshops, training sessions, and regional and international symposia. Under this project, AquaFish CRSP is sponsoring the 8th International Symposium on Tilapia in Aquaculture and The recent rapid growth of aquaculture has been a boon to many developing countries. Local consumption of aquaculture products and export of surplus production has improved both household nutrition and standard of living. Most cultured species are popular foods in local cuisines, representing multi-billions of dollars in local sales and international exports that are critical to developing economies. Unfortunately, the environmental impacts of aquaculture practices have been considerable. Demand for fishmeal and fish oil for aquaculture diets has grown to be a significant percentage of global markets. Effluents from aquaculture farms have contributed to eutrophication of receiving waters. As the economic and social importance of aquaculture products grows, it is imperative that scientists in both producing and consuming countries collaborate to develop diets and production systems that mitigate environmental impacts and reduce demands on limited resources.

This project builds on the former ACRSP’s research and outreach by linking a series of research investigations and activities focused on (1) developing multiple use and polyculture systems to reduce impacts of effluents on the environment, with special focus on marine macroalgae (seaweeds); (2) developing indigenous species of cichlids and snook for aquaculture; (3) examining the bacterial degradation of methyltestosterone (MT) from hatchery effluent; (4) determining the food safety aspect of leafy vegetable crops grown with aquaculture effluents; (5) testing locally available protein and lipid sources to replace fish meal and fish oils in practical diets for tilapia, native cichlids, snook, and pacu; and (6) developing and providing improved lines of tilapia for aquaculture across Central America. Associated outreach activities include workshops, training sessions, and regional and international symposia. Under this project, AquaFish CRSP is sponsoring the 8th International Symposium on Tilapia in Aquaculture and organizing a special session at the 2008 World Aquaculture Meetings in Busan, Korea.

Mexico, the primary host country, is partnering with Guyana as a new CRSP country. Faculty from Delaware State University, Cornell University, and Oregon State University are participating as co-PI’s or advisors to the US partners. This project also builds on collaborations developed within the former Aquaculture CRSP and US-Mexico Aquaculture TIES program, which is also supported by USAID. The US-Mexican network in TIES will also be tapped as project partners. At UJAT, the CETRA center provides a means for information exchange and training via the Internet and workshops. Making use of CETRA’s network, research results will be distributed on production of snook, native cichlids, and seaweeds in recirculating systems.

Aquaculture has been touted as the solution to overfishing, depleted natural stocks, wasteful by- catch, and an opportunity to protect and enhance threatened and endangered species. It has also been assailed as a threat to the environment, a source of low quality or contaminated seafood, and responsible for the transfer of land and fishing rights to the wealthy from native peoples. Of course there are elements of truth in both camps. Sloganeering, “The Blue Revolution” versus “Friends don’t let friends eat farmed fish” does us little good. Instead, our role as scientists is to utilize our skills, technology, and the scientific method to develop and share techniques and knowledge that will enable farmers to produce more aquatic foods while mitigating the impacts of their activities on the environment. Coastal zone management has developed as a discipline to coordinate the competing demands on coastal resources. In many developing countries, aquaculture has become one of the primary demands for water resources. Shrimp farming in particular has devastated mangrove forests and left abandoned ponds. In the last workplan of the Aquaculture CRSP, several investigations and activities demonstrated the benefits of more sustainable aquaculture systems beyond shrimp monoculture. Tilapia and other species could be reared in abandoned shrimp ponds; polyculture systems of tilapia and shrimp could mitigate some of the environmental impacts and disease problems endemic to the shrimp industry; and mangroves and seaweeds could absorb nutrients.

Some of the proposed investigations would expand the polyculture research and incorporate seaweed culture as well. Seaweed culture is especially important as seaweeds act to absorb nutrients, thereby mitigating effluent impacts, while also providing a nutritious and highly marketable product.

Scientists and institutions in the host countries need help to develop, share, and demonstrate sustainable aquaculture techniques. Local demand for aquaculture knowledge and technology must be increased. International buyers must be informed of new supplies of aquaculture product from sustainable farming systems.

The overall vision is to improve the welfare of aquaculturists in Mexico, Guyana, and their neighboring countries, while reducing their impacts on the environment. This vision will be achieved primarily by improving the knowledge and capacity of the producers and their local technical support. Considerable contributions will be made to improving the physical capacity of Universities and a research center.

The first set of investigations will demonstrate significant progress with experimental results and extend knowledge through several avenues of outreach. A second set of investigations will provide even more direct support and training for small fish producers who need to continue to improve their productivity and technology if they wish to compete in the markets, while protecting the native habitat. Integrated systems, with seaweeds, aquatic plants, and halophytes will presumably become the preferred method of treating fish effluents. A&F CRSP will continue to be the global leader in developing these concepts.

One primary objective is to leverage project funds with significant support from partners. The Guyana project has local in-kind support from farmers and government as well as continued interest from the local USAID mission, which has already provided significant financial support to the local fish farmers cooperative. Partners in Egypt have prepared a budget for the next International Symposium on Tilapia in Aquaculture (ISTA8) with $100,000 of Egyptian government support. This would match what was received from the Mexican government when the Aquaculture CRSP co-sponsored ISTA7.

Building on these partnerships should reduce our requests for CRSP funds while continuing collaboration in future years. As capacity is improved in the host countries, CRSP funds will be more highly leveraged. For example, in the early years of the PD/A CRSP, significant resources were used to build aquaculture capacity in Egypt, specifically at Abbassa. Today, Egypt has the second largest tilapia production (2005 = 445,000 metric tons) in the world. The PD/A CRSP clearly played an incubator role in this success, building physical and intellectual capacity. Now, Egyptian partners, like their Mexican colleagues, have the ability and interest to provide significant resources to partner with sustainable aquaculture efforts. ISTA 8 should highlight this progress and gain the attention of European vendors who may jump-start the international trade of Egyptian tilapia.

The goal to improve sustainability is especially important in the Americas where tilapia and shrimp are now the two major aquaculture crops. Even incremental improvements in tilapia productivity are magnified to affect thousands of farmers and employees. Abandoned shrimp ponds are targets for further conversion for urbanization unless they are restored into a mangrove-friendly aquaculture system.