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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: August 2009

11 - Tilapia: a fish with global reach



Tilapia is the most widely produced fish in global export aquaculture and second only to carps as the most widely farmed freshwater fishes in the world (Naylor et al. 2000). The world harvest of farm-raised tilapia surpasses 800 000 tonnes (FAO 2004). Tilapia is grown in more than 75 countries, and China is the leading producer with 706 585 tonnes in 2002, or 47 percent of total world production (FAO 2004). Although a freshwater fish, tilapia can tolerate some salinity and so is hardier than many other breeds. This increases the range of possibilities for culture. Depicted on the walls of Egyptian tombs, tilapia in Biblical times was known as musht, Arabic for “comb.” More recently known as “St. Peter's fish,” it is understood that tilapia (Tilapia galilaea) from the Sea of Galilee were used to miraculously feed the multitude. Some attribute the naming of tilapia to Aristotle, from Greek for “distant,” a fitting etymology for a globalized fish.

Globalization – understood broadly as a process resulting from the growing integration of product, labor and capital markets, common technologies, increasingly similar patterns of food consumption, and changes in the international trade regime – has become a major restructuring force for food systems in the developed and developing world (Steeten 2001; Roth 2002). It implies longer production chains that link distant production centers to centers of consumption (Steeten 2001).

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