Aquaculture As Change Agent For Socio-economic Development

Aquaculture has gained so much attention and investment because of the decline in the catch from the ocean, an increasing world population with rising per capital consumption, the demand for animal protein has continued to increase hence the need to apply the tools of biotechnology to increase production becomes imperative.

Experts have defined? aquaculture as the rearing of organisms under controlled or semi controlled conditions. The aquatic organism that is of most interest with regard to human food include a variety of plants, invertebrates and vertebrates.

In his remarks at the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) with the theme “Biotechnology in Aquaculture” held in Cross River State, the Director General (DG) of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Bamidele Solomon, said the application of biotechnology in aquaculture is an age long tradition.

Bamidele said, “the application of biotechnology in aquaculture which is the current world fastest growing sector of the agricultural business started since 6000BC.”

According to him, “many years of traditional biotechnology application in fish production was in the form of selective breeding and hybridization. Crossing similar species (cross breeding) or naturally different species (hybridization) to give hybrids with improved heterosis, improved fish yield and resistance to diseases.”

The DG reiterated that modern biotechnology techniques are now being applied in different ways in aquaculture, which has made it possible to identify and combine traits in fish to increase productivity and quality and at the same time, introduce economically desirable traits in fish, which has given rise to better stock of high commercial value.

“Other potential area of biotechnology in aquaculture include the use of synthetic hormones in induced breeding, induction of triploidy, tetraploidy, Gynogenesis (dam), Androgenesis (sire) and transgenesis,” he added.

He said that the economic growth and sustainability of many countries depend on the strong performance of the agricultural sector, adding that biotechnology has proven to be an important tool for improving Nigeria’s aquaculture and agricultural system as a whole.

In his presentation, the Head, Programme of Genetics and Biotechnology, National Institute of Fresh Water Fisheries Research, Dr. Samuel Olufeagba, said that biotechnology allows scientists to identify and combine traits in fish to increase productivity and quality.

Olufeagba said, “biotechnologists are investigating genes that will increase production of natural fish growth factors and increase disease resistance. Biotechnology provides powerful tools for the sustainable development of aquaculture.

He highlighted that biotechnology in aquaculture can be applied in various areas which includes hybridization described as the indirect way of genome modification where genome of the progenies is altered by combining the haploid genome of two different parent species.

Others include synthetic hormones, which is the best biotechnological tool for the induced breeding of fish and chromosome engineering, which is, a method of modern biotechnology involving manipulation of chromosome.

Olufeagba maintained that biotechnology has assumed the greatest importance in the development of fisheries.

“Application of biotechnology will create novel genes and genotypes of fish. The application of biotechnology in the fisheries sector is a relatively recent practice. Nevertheless, it is a promising area of fish production,” he added.

In his goodwill message, the Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cross River State, Mr. James Aniyom,? said that Nigeria should embrace agricultural biotechnology if it wants to keep pace with globalization and also create the desired impact in the socio-economic lives of the masses.

He said that the forum was meant to address aquaculture in relation to improving productivity, quality of fisheries and income of farmers by using biotechnology tools.

According to him, “biotechnology tools can be applied in areas like transgenic feed sources, improved composition of feed if considered can give? fish with increase growth, shorter maturation rate, freezing tolerance, flesh quality, disease resistance etc, will translate to boosting activities in the sub-sector and improving the sub-sector’s contribution to food and nutrition security by developing economically viable value chain in agriculture.”

Aniyom said this can be achieved through increased yields/output especially when matched with adequate post handling operations.

He reiterated that it is assumed that this would affect public perception and in tandem stimulate economic activities.

He further said that government has supported investments in aquaculture by linking investors to financial institutions through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) strategy.

Earlier in his address, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesin, had lamented that Nigeria has been ranked the largest importer of frozen fish in Africa with the massive importation of frozen fish into the country.

He highlighted that the goal of aquaculture value chain was to create an enabling environment for increased and sustainable production of over 1million metric tons (mt) of aquaculture fish annually, to generate 5,000 jobs under a four year work plan.

He said this was realizable as aquaculture has been classified as the world’s fastest growing food production sector.

Adding that there was investment plans from the South South states on fisheries. “Already, export processing zone site has been selected in Bayelsa to add value to fish products. It is therefore, the desire of ATA-Nigeria in the South South, to benefit from agricultural biotechnology in terms of developing fish fingerlings production. This will minimize the impact of shortage of fingerlings aggravated by the recent destruction of hundreds of fish ponds in the South South region due to flooding.