Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture has said it is keeping a close watch over tilapia fish following an outbreak of lethal virus.
A highly contagious disease is spreading among farmed and wild tilapia, one of the world’s most popular fish for human consumption, according to an alert issued last month by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The Virus has been confirmed in Egypt, Colombia, Israel, Ecuador and Thailand.
The disease shows highly variable mortality, with outbreaks in Thailand triggering the deaths of up to 90 percent of stocks. Infected fish often show loss of appetite, slow movements, reddened skin, and inflammation of organs including the eyes and brain and liver damage.
Vincent Sempijja, the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, states that although Uganda is not mentioned among the countries affected, the ministry is taking keen interest in the matter as Uganda is a huge consumer of fish. He says Ugandan Tilapia is that grown in fresh waters, which is a different environment from others.
He says experts do investigations all the time and they are currently investigating and monitoring Tilapia.
He says however, there is no risk of Uganda suffering from the challenge.
Fish is a main source of food in Uganda with consumption ranging between 10-15kg per person per annum according to reports. The Nile Tilapia is one of the major species.
Uganda’s total annual fish production is about 550,000 tons, with about 90% of this coming from lakes Victoria, Kyoga, Albert, Edward and George, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
In 2015, world tilapia production, from both aquaculture and capture, amounted to 6.4 million tonnes, with an estimated value of 9.8 billion US dollars, and worldwide trade was valued at 1.8 billion US dollars. The fish is a mainstay of global food security and nutrition, according to the Global Information and Early Warnings System.
China, Indonesia and Egypt are the three leading aquaculture producers of tilapia, a fish deemed to have great potential for expansion in sub-Saharan Africa.