Government has commissioned a $1.8 million aquaculture hatchery, extension and training facility at the Sugar Cane Feeds Centre (SFC) in Longdenville, Chaguanas.Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj, in his address at the commissioning ceremony, said the aim is to boost annual production to 475 tonnes over a five-year period.He said imported tilapia contributes to T&T's food import bill.
The hatchery will have the capacity to supply an estimated 50 per cent of fingerlings needed to meet the 2015 national tilapia target and reverse the decline in natural and farmed supplies of cascadura.There are plans to expand the hatchery by the next fiscal year to facilitate increased breeding of the black river conch.Maharaj said there is increased consumption of tilapia locally because of a major incentive to market the fish.
In the last six months, the SFC has purchased more than five tonnes of tilapia from farmers to be processed for local sale.Based on statistics from the SFC, sales have more than doubled to an average of over 1,500 pounds a month.Maharaj said Cabinet has approved plans for construction of a tilapia processing plant at the SFC training facility.
He said the Food Production Ministry plans to increase local cascadura supplies but will keep that information private since the previous efforts to repopulate local stocks at Kernahan, Ortoire, failed because fishermen removed the cascadura fingerlings from the river.Maharaj said the state-operated hatcheries at the SFC will supply provide 1.1 million fingerlings for this project.
He said there are also plans to regulate and manage natural harvesting for the long term sustainability of the rural micro-industry to stimulate economic activity in rural communities which are dependent on fishing.