Tilapia are better known in the marine ecosystem as "Oreochromis niloticus" and are endemic to Africa. Taking advantage of their characteristics and adaptability, they were considered ideal for rural fish farming. Tilapia have been rapidly introduced to other tropical and subtropical countries throughout the world. Currently, they are distributed in Southeast Asia, southern North America, Central America, the southern Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa. A shocking 98% of all tilapia production takes place outside the typical environment for tilapia.
Tilapia are viable outside of their typical environment because of their high level of adaptability to different environmental conditions, as well as their high rate of spawning and fertilization. In addition, the tilapia show rapid growth as they can reach weights of 1 to 1.5 pounds (about 450-680 grams) in a period of 6 to 9 months, depending on the culture system used. Tilapia can be subjected to intensive or super-intensive cultivation, which leads to the increase in production volume and the reduction in operating costs.
Tilapia also have a high resistance to diseases. This characteristic allows it to show more remarkable survival and therefore greater profitability, as breeders do not have to invest as much in medicines to keep the tilapia healthy. They are generally a herbivorous species, although they accept all kinds of food, both natural and artificial. For aquaculture farms, tilapia is a species that is resistant to handling and diseases, physical and chemical factors, as well as the process required to manage the production system, including liming, fertilization, sampling, biometrics, parameter control, and proper regulation.
Global Market Overview
In the top populated countries, tilapia is a widely produced and consumed species. In 1998, the Tilapia Marketing Institute (TMI) was formed to organize producers and marketers to carry out generic campaigns to increase consumption of tilapia in its various forms. For some years now, in the United States, tilapia has been the third most imported aquatic product after marine shrimp and Atlantic salmon. Since 1998, it has been considered the fish of the year, according to the American Tilapia Association (ATA). In 2001, it began to appear in the “America's Top 10 Seafoods”. It is expected that the growth of its consumption will maintain an average minimum annual increase of 3 to 5%. Last year Global tilapia production grew by 3.3 per cent despite the impact of Covid-19.
The tilapia market initially started as a type of whole frozen fish, but the United States consumers prefer the fillet, which is mainly supplied by Jamaica, Colombia and Costa Rica, as a fresh product. The market for tilapia as a protein is constantly expanding. Many European countries are just discovering tilapia, so there is a high potential for increased imports of the species into Europe in the years to come.