Award for fish breeding in developing countries

The WorldFish Center in Malaysia received an American award for the way the organisation has used technology to generate economic growth in developing countries
November 11, 2005

The WorldFish Center in Malaysia received an American award for the way the organisation has used technology to generate economic growth in developing countries. AKVAFORSK was responsible for the technology, which employs knowledge of selective breeding genetically to improve fish.


The goal of the project “Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia” (GIFT) was to increase the growth of the tropical fish species tilapia through selective breeding methods. After several generations of selection, growth increased dramatically, resulting in higher food production. Poor farmers are now benefiting from more profitable production and better living conditions. The Tech Museum of Innovation in California has given the project the “Accenture Economic Development Award”. Financed primarily by the United Nations Development Programme, GIFT was a collaborative effort between the WorldFish Center (WFC), AKVAFORSK and Philippine institutions. WFC led the project.


Bjørn Skjævestad, managing director of AKVAFORSK, thanks everyone involved in the collaboration on GIFT. “Our collaboration with WFC and the Philippine participants has been extremely productive, and we are proud of having been part of a project of such great importance to the international community,” he said.


Pioneering work on tropical species

AKVAFORSK had scientific responsibility for the establishment and implementation of GIFT. Prof. Trygve Gjedrem and senior researcher Hans B. Bentsen, catalysts for AKVAFORSK’s participation in the project, are pleased about the award and the wide-ranging impact that GIFT has achieved. Several countries in Southeast Asia and Central America have used fish from the GIFT strain in their selective breeding programmes. The transfer of breeding technology to other countries and fish species represents an enormous step forward for tropical aquaculture.


Gjedrem says that it was important for AKVAFORSK to show that it was also possible to carry out selective breeding on tropical fish species. “Previous attempts had failed, and selective breeding of warm water species was viewed as impossible by many. With GIFT we saw the same improvements that we had already seen in several cold water species, such as salmon,” Gjedrem explains.


The project group did not base the GIFT strain only on tilapia from the Philippines. Since these fish had been inbred for generations, they needed an infusion of genes with wide variation in order to make genetic improvement. For this reason, the project group compiled genetic material from four wild river strains in Africa and crossed them with the Philippine strain. The fish that showed the best characteristics formed the basis for the GIFT strain, which has now been selected over many generations.


Award for humanitarian efforts

Each year the Tech Museum of Innovation awards prizes to innovators throughout the world who have used technology in the service of humanity. WFC was one of five institutes recognised with the “Accenture Economic Development Award” this year.