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New guidelines for Malawi’s tilapia hatchery operators
Tuesday, 09 August 2011 12:09

The government of Malawi has published guidelines for tilapia hatchery operators, which it says will provide a framework for the development of hatcheries and services for inspecting and certifying fish hatcheries and fish seed in the country.

An estimated 6,000 farmers in Malawi are engaged in fish farming. The guidelines outline operating and management standards for fish hatcheries. The government believes that adoption of the standards stipulated in the guidelines will ensure that high-quality fish seed are produced and accessed by producers. Production of certified or quality-assured fish seed will also minimise the use of inbred or poor-quality seed.

The Department of Fisheries acting director Steve Donda said the guidelines will “help to establish fish seed systems and improve the production of high-quality fish seed and reduce the use of inbred seed in Malawi”.

“Most of the farmers are using fish stocks which are genetically similar or inferior to wild stock,” said Donda. “With increased commercialisation of fish farming, there is need for the specialised production of high-quality fish seed by fish hatcheries and corresponding development of hatchery and fish seed certification services.”

In 2005, Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika launched the Presidential Initiative for Aquaculture Development (PIAD) to boost development of aquaculture. This resulted in an increase in demand for fish fingerlings. However, as the fish farming industry in Malawi expands, the demand for high-quality fingerlings that can only be produced efficiently by specialised fingerling producers or hatcheries will increase.

“These guidelines will focus more on tilapia fingerling production in Malawi,” said Dr Daniel Jamu, director of the World Fish Centre (WFC) in Malawi and co-author of the guidelines. “Many Malawian fish farmers are engaged in fingerling and food fish production simultaneously, although some fish-farmers are specialising in fingerling production only.”

There are a number of tilapia species in Malawi. Oreochromis shiranus (O shiranus) is the most commonly farmed species, used by used by 90 percent of tilapia farmers.

“To improve productivity of O shiranus, the National Aquaculture Centre (NAC) in collaboration with the WFC has, through a cohort selective breeding process, improved growth performance of O shiranus,” said Jamu. “The breeding nucleus of selectively bred O shiranus is maintained at NAC and Bunda College of Agriculture.”

“The purpose of these hatchery guidelines is to assist hatchery operators to produce quality fingerlings for sale to all fish farmers in Malawi,” added Dr Hasting Zidana, co-author of the guidelines. “It is also planned that these hatchery guidelines will form the basis for developing fingerling production standards and fingerling certification scheme in Malawi.”

Zidana said these guidelines will relevant and applicable to all fish hatchery operators, fish farmers, project developers, development agencies and the general public. The Malawi Research Into Use (RIU) programme funded the production of the guidelines with money from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). 

Raphael Mweninguwe