…… Fisheries Commission Report Indicates Presence of Oreochromis niloticus

As you move into any restaurant or chop bar near you with your family or girlfriend, you may be sure as night follows day that the tilapia that may be served you is chemical rather than natural or organic.

According to an official report titled GENETIC RELATIONSHIPS AND ORIGINS OF THE STRAINS OF TILAPIA BEING FARMED IN GHANA submitted to the Fisheries Commission of Ghana and Stakeholders dated February 2018, a study conducted by researchers revealed that tilapia available on our markets are a genetic characterization of farmed River Nile tilapia called Oreochromis niloticus.

The report also gives an impression that there may be a dichotomy in engineering the various programmes, which gives cause for concern over safety of the genetic types we may be consuming.

This finding was compared to the government-approved “Akosombo” strain from the Aquaculture Research and Development Centre (ARDEC).

In conducting the research, researchers used “mitochondrial DNA sequences from the control region (Dloop) and the ND1 gene to infer the genetic relationships among the farmed populations and compared them with the Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT) strain of O. niloticus and its derivatives.

“We found that the Ghana farmed samples were genetically distinct from the GIFT strains. However, samples from one farm; Fujian farm, clustered closely with the GIFT and related strains (from Egypt, Philippines and America) and samples distributed in USA grocery stores with labels from China and Ecuador.”

The report noted that “these results confirm that the Fujian farm was growing the GIFT strain of O. niloticus in Ghana as recently as June 2017. On the other hand, ARDEC and Volta Catch, one of the largest farms and distribution outlets showed signal of only the local Akosombo strain in 2017 samples. “

According to the report, the authors also found that other “farm and distribution outlets including Lee, Value Concern and a cold store in Elubo have products that might be a mixture of the Akosombo strain and the GIFT. The mixing could have resulted from either a deliberate or an unintentional mixing of the Akosombo strain with the GIFT, originating possibly from the Fujian farm or other farms. The signal of GIFT in 2015 PAC samples, in particular, likely resulted from experimental cross contamination of GIFT and the Akosombo strain at ARDEC. “

It again noted that “this analysis was not designed to be exhaustive in ruling out the presence of the GIFT from other farms in Ghana. Non-detection of the GIFT from a particular farm at a particular time is not evidence of absence of the GIFT for all times. To confirm the current prevalence of the GIFT and its derivatives in Ghana, additional targeted sampling across time and farms will be needed.

“Ongoing work will expand the number and sources of samples included in the analysis and will determine the implication of these findings for the genetic diversity of wild populations of O. niloticus in Ghana as well as what actions will be prudent on the part of the government and the private sector to ensure competitiveness and sustainability of tilapia farming in the country”.