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Push For Aquaculture Would Reap Benefits

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - A stronger emphasis on aquaculture not only on tilapia but also other freshwater and marine fish species would help the domestic economy and exports, according to a local reporter.

With the end of the Lenten season and its traditional heavy demand for fish, what strikes forcibly in the wake of this year's fish shortages is that a great deal more needs to be done for the fishing industry, according to Newsday of Trinidad and Tobago.

On the plus side, however, is the Minister of Food Production's recent advice of plans to assist several of the country's fishing villages as well as the developments of strategies aimed at helping the winning of larger catch. But as welcome as this may be, the question remains: is it enough? In the meantime, the suggestion of aquaculture as a complement or indeed, in some instances, a credible alternative to sea fishing should be examined closely. An increased rearing of tilapia fish, an African freshwater fish that was introduced to Trinidad and Tobago in 1954 with the establishment of a fish station at Bamboo Grove, can be a lucrative business once the industry receives the required financial backing.

There have been attempts by various administrations to develop not only the tilapia but freshwater fish on the whole as a viable industry. Indeed, there have been scores of persons over the years, who ploughed a great of their money and time into the development, specifically, of tilapia fish farms.

Different governments in office since 1954 have assisted through having the tilapia fish gathered and put into rivers for extended breeding purposes so as to make them more readily accessible to fishermen and consumers living near to the water courses.

A feature of the tilapia is that they multiply rapidly, apart from being a relatively tasty dish and being available throughout the year.

There is no high season or low season where the catch and sale of tilapia are concerned. Indeed, vendors can be seen offering the tilapia at the southern side of the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, in the vicinity of Bamboo Grove, on a regular basis. In turn, with any further development by the public sector as well as by the private sector, of the tilapia industry through continued placing of scores of the freshwater fish in watercourses this would make it easier for consumers to access the fish rather than have to journey to public markets.

The market for the tilapia has been long established, with a major plus being its relatively low cost to consumers. While there are other popular freshwater fish, for example the cascadura, the tilapia nonetheless can be caught during a much longer period and this includes the annual Lenten season, and in far greater quantities than other fresh water fish. This reduces its fishing costs and, consequently, increases profit margins.

Newsday reports that, as we advance the need for a strengthening of the fresh water fish industry, a major point we have to keep in mind is that sales of domestic catch of fish, whether coastal, deep sea or freshwater fish, in high demand at this time of the year, contribute to a lowering of Trinidad and Tobago's food import bill. This is of crucial importance as it helps to reduce the amount of foreign exchange earnings expended on imports at a time when this country, not unlike the rest of the world, has been adversely affected by an international financial crisis.

The global economic downturn has meant a dwindling of Trinidad and Tobago's exports and although the current high prices of crude and natural gas on the international market have helped to absorb the shock of reduced export markets, nevertheless any lowering of our import bill helps. In this context, there is the need for greater emphasis on aquaculture.

the Fish Site Editor

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