RWANDA – The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) of Rwanda has banned the importation of tilapia fingerlings after tilapia lake virus (TiLV) disease was identified in various countries.

The virus affects both wild and farmed tilapia fish, and it can cause decline in tilapia catch quantities.

A statement which was issued on Thursday, February 20, says that in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus, the ministry has banned the entry of tilapia fingerlings into Rwanda.

Agriculture minister Gérardine Mukeshimana says that any person who wants to bring fingerlings of other fish species into the country will have to request for a license from the ministry.

Dr Solange Uwituze, Deputy Director-General of Animal Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agricultural Board, told The New Times that the disease is not zoonotic, meaning that it does not affect humans.

Uwituze said that confirmed countries with TiLV include Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Israel, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico (in six Mexican States), Philippines, Malaysia, Peru, India and Tanzania.

Countries at high risk of TiLV, Uwituze said, are Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burundi, Canada, China, Congo, El-Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania and Rwanda. Others include Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirate, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam and Zambia.

Uwituze said that live fish that were being imported were a small amount (around 5000) of fingerlings to serve for broodstock for satellite (or secondary) hatcheries.

The statement warned that any person who will be caught bringing live fish to Rwanda without the required licence, will face the consequences as provided for by the law.

The Ministry requested all fish farmers to put in place strategies to prevent such a disease by avoiding breeding of fingerlings which they do not know of their origin, avoid sharing of fish farming and fishing equipment and maintaining hygiene in the fishing site.

She said that tilapia is very important fish as it is the most farmed and consumed species by Rwandans and it is exported to DR Congo, mostly through Rubavu and Rusizi districts.

The ministry added that farmers should pay attention to signs such as, extreme death of fish, skin redness, the bulging of the eye out of the orbit and skin loss on fish whose death is undetermined.

In case one of those signs’ manifests, the ministry cautioned, fish farmers to report it to nearby officer in charge of fishing and fish farming based at MINAGRI.

Rwanda has three big hatcheries and eight satellites hatcheries with a production capacity of around 40 million fingerlings per year.

To fill the gap that will be left by the ban of imports, the Rwanda Agricultural Board will take the lead in producing needed brood-stock.

Fish production in Rwanda was at 31,465 tonnes in 2019 while demand is estimated to reach 112,000 tonnes by 2024. The latter is the same amount of fish that Rwanda targets to produce per year under the fourth strategic plan for agriculture transformation which runs from 2018 to 2024.