The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research- Food Research Institute, (CSIR-FRI), has launched a “Safefish” project, intended to help provide the best scientific solution to saving the aquaculture sector, faced with lots of fish diseases and deaths.
Aquaculture is said to be the fastest growing agro sector in the world, with a value of US$ 163 billion, a 2017 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report have indicated.
In Ghana, Tilapia is said to contribute 90.3 per cent and Catfish 9.7 per cent of the total aquaculture production, a 2019 Ministry of Food and Agriculture report have revealed.
However, most aquaculture farmers in Ghana are estimated to record a fish mortality rate as high as 75 to 85 per cent after stocking with fingerlings, while fish disease constitute the largest single cause of economic losses in the sector.
Speaking at the “Safefish stakeholder awareness creation workshop on Wednesday in Accra, Dr Etornyo Abgeko, Research Scientist, CSIR-Water Research Institute, partners of the project, revealed that due to the unavailability of proper antidote, many of the farmers resorted to the use of antibiotics and were being faced with the challenge of drug resistance.
He said in 2018, over 100 tonnes of farmed tilapia died on Lake Volta within a month.
He said the three-year project, being funded by the African Union and the European Commission, involving various stakeholders in the Aquaculture sector in Ghana and Uganda, would target small holder fish farmers, who are mostly pond and subsistence-based tilapia growing, including women groups that dominate the aquaculture sector in the two countries.
Mr Evans Agbemafle, Research Scientist, CSIR- FRI, and Co-investigator of the SafeFish project, explained that the main goal of the project, was therefore, to develop bacteriophage products for integrated fish disease management to minimize antibiotic use in fish production in Ghana.
He said the FRI was partnering with institutions, comprising the CSIR-WRI, the Fishery and Aquaculture Division, Ghana; the College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Resources and Biosecurity, Makerere University, Uganda; National Fishery Resources Research Institute- NAFIRRI, Uganda; and the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Cape Coast, Ghana.
Others are the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana, Legon; and the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, University of Leicester, United Kingdom.
Mrs Levina Owusu, Chief Director, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, said the project was intended to improve tilapia health to optimize yields and to deliberate on ways of preventing, managing and controlling spoilage and pathogenic fish diseases of cultured tilapia was timely.
“This is one of the positive actions by the European Commission (EU) to fund key flagship programmes of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 to boost ‘Africa’s economic growth and development and lead to the rapid transformation of the continent”, she said.
She said the government, through the sector Ministry, initiated Aquaculture for Food and Jobs Programme at James town specifically, the James Camp Prisons Fish Farm in Accra last year, an effort to boost fish production.
She therefore, urged the fish farmers to get involved in the project and better their lot and their livelihoods as well.
Professor Mary Obodai, Director, CSIR-FRI said as the lead partner in Ghana of the Safe-Fish Project, the Institute was well poised to work with the other partners in resolving the challenges facing the aquaculture sector.
“We are leading this project because we want to help in finding solution to curtail the diseases that affect our fish”