SOME 3,000 Andros-grown, fish-farmed tilapia will hit the Bahamian retail market in early 2019 to help meet demand following the Nassau Grouper season's closure.
Alaasis Braynen, the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute's (BAMSI) chief executive, announced the initiative that marks the beginning of the Institute's planned venture into aquaculture.
Michael Pintard, minister of agriculture and marine resources, said his primary interest lies in the institute's ability to use the tilapia as a research initiative that would provide scientific data for Bahamians who may be interested in commercial aquaculture.
He encouraged BAMSI to aggressively explore opportunities for public-private partnerships (PPPs) so the project could benefit from private funding and expertise, aiding its growth and profitability.
The all-male Nile tilapia were introduced to BAMSI's aquaponics facility in North Andros earlier this month, and are expected to be ready for harvest in six months. Their release is part of the Government's commitment to support sustainable fisheries, and invest in initiatives needed to push the nation toward a food-secure future.
Mr Braynen said the first consumers of the tilapia will be BAMSI's own students. "BAMSI has the mandate ''we eat what we grow', then commercially, it's part of the strategy to reduce BAMSI's financial dependence on the Government. It's really going to increase our revenue thereby, reducing the Government's subvention," he added.
The growing interest in tilapia by restaurants, wholesale fisheries and retail agencies comes at a time when the Nassau Grouper, which is a popular fish among Bahamians and tourists, has been listed as endangered due to over-fishing, poaching and unregulated fishing methods.
A fixed season, with government-backed oversight, now limits the amount of grouper available to the market, opening the way for new fish varieties to satisfy Bahamian consumers.
With BAMSI entering the fish farm arena, it means that a viable source of protein will be available year-round. Going forward, BAMSI plans on bringing in the tilapia fingerlings every six weeks to replenish its stock.
Vallierre Deleveaux, head of BAMSI's marine division, personally travelled to Florida to select the species, and engineered the method of successful transport to the Andros research/tutorial farm.