Study finds improved fish health and profits by using Streptococcosis resistant tilapia

A recent study by GenoMar Genetics found that tilapia farmers made significant additional profits in both ponds and cages even at low levels of Streptococcosis-related mortality.

Study finds improved fish health and profits by using Streptococcosis resistant tilapia
June 16, 2022

A scientific study analyzing the cost-benefit of using GenoMar genetically selected Streptococcosis-resistant fingerlings in the farming of Nile tilapia found that tilapia farmers made significant additional profits in both ponds and cages even at low levels of Streptococcosis-related mortality.

Streptococcosis is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases affecting tilapia aquaculture worldwide. The disease causes reduced survival, downgraded product quality and seriously impacts profitability in tilapia enterprises. 

In most parts of the world, and especially among small and medium-sized tilapia farmers, the only control measures farmers have at hand is to make husbandry changes in their production systems, such as reducing feeding or increasing aeration and water exchange. Antibiotics are also commonly used and accessible for tilapia farmers. The number of approved aquatic antimicrobials is however extremely limited. The indiscriminate and inaccurate application of oral antibiotics for the control of aquatic diseases is a growing concern for veterinary and public health authorities due to the risk of developing anti-microbial resistance. 

Vaccination strategies by intraperitoneal injection are gaining momentum among the most professional farmers. The uptake in Asian tilapia aquaculture, where small and medium-scale farmers are the norm is limited due to requirements for a minimum size at vaccination of 10-15 grams and complex administration. 

Preventive genetic strategy to control diseases

Breeding animals for higher genetic tolerance/resistance to diseases is a promising innovation that has demonstrated its value in other livestock and aquatic species. Breeding for Streptococcosis resistance in tilapia is accessible to farmers of all sizes and has no barriers to adoption, lasts the entire life of the fish and genetic gain in resistance is accumulative over generations of breeding. I also has no cost of administration since the innovation is already inside the genetic makeup of the fish.

“Genetically resistant fingerlings will contribute to increased survival, increased feed efficiency, and better growth leading to higher net return,” said Marina Delphino, Fish Health and Welfare manager in GenoMar Genetics Group. 

Beneficial to rear Streptococcosis resistant tilapia

After five years of R&D work and field testing, GenoMar launched Streptococcosis resistant tilapia in the Asian market in early 2021, under the name GenoMar Strong. The documented protection against Streptococcosis of 30-35% RPS (Relative Percent Survival) was used in the economic break-even analysis. The results showed that genetically selected Streptococcosis-resistant tilapia fingerlings were profitable for farmers in both pond and cage culture systems where Streptococcosis is the production constraint. 

“This study to perform the economic evaluation will help the farmers to understand the economic value of using genetically selected tilapia fingerlings for their production,” according to Rajesh Joshi, senior researcher in GenoMar Genetics Group.

The cost of buying Streptococcosis-resistant tilapia fingerlings is higher compared to standard fingerlings prices because R&D and phenotyping (measurement of observed physical traits) costs are higher. The study showed a significantly higher return of investments in both ponds and cages with Streptococcosis outbreaks, even if the amount paid for genetically selected Streptococcosis-resistant tilapia fingerlings was double the amount paid for standard fingerlings. Even with low Streptococcus-related mortality (1-5%), the net profit is in favor of Streptococcus resistance fingerlings if the extra amount paid for resistant fingerlings over the standard fingerlings is up to 30% (Fig. 1). 

Figure 1. Profitability using streptococcosis resistant fingerlings

Figure 1. Break-even calculations (benefits ≥ costs) when Streptococcosis resistant fingerlings prices and mortalities caused by Streptococcosis increase under pond and cage farming of tilapia in Malaysia. The green colors show the probabilities of break-even when the benefits (protection against Streptococcosis) are higher than or equal to the costs (extra price of buying genetically selected tilapia fingerlings resistant to Streptococcosis over the standard fingerlings). 

“The direct economic benefits and costs of rearing disease-resistant tilapia are important for the farmers to consider. However, there are also social and environmental benefits of using the technology, such as improved overall fish resilience, reduced use of antibiotics, lower generation of mortality waste and higher resource efficiency. All these contributions will support the development of a more sustainable aquaculture value chain,” said Alejandro Tola Alvarez, CEO of GenoMar Genetics Group.

Check out the study here.