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Tilapia Aquaculture – An Overview: Harvest, Processing, Marketing in US and Mexico. Kevin Fitzsimmons University of Arizona, Professor World Aquaculture Society, Immediate Past-President American Tilapia Association, Sec./Tres. Pablo Gonzalez Alanis

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Tilapia Aquaculture – An Overview: Harvest, Processing, Marketing in US and Mexico

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Tilapia aquaculture an overview harvest processing marketing in us and mexico

Tilapia Aquaculture – An Overview: Harvest, Processing, Marketing in US and Mexico

Kevin FitzsimmonsUniversity of Arizona, Professor

World Aquaculture Society, Immediate Past-President

American Tilapia Association, Sec./Tres.

Pablo Gonzalez Alanis

Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas, Professor

World Aquaculture Society, Student Liaison

Program Coordinator, Aquaculture TIES

Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico

1ero Dec, 2005

Tilapia aquaculture

Tilapia aquaculture

  • Second most important farmed fish after the carps

  • Most widely grown of any farmed fish

  • In 2003 became the eighth most popular seafood in the US

  • In 2004 moved up to sixth most popular seafood in the US

Pre processing steps

Pre-processing steps

  • Hatchery and Growout

  • Check for off-flavor

  • Harvest techniques

  • Depuration

  • Transport to processor

Quality control begins on the farm

Quality Control begins on the Farm

  • Farmer must remember that many actions during growout can affect final product quality and marketing

  • For example: some markets will not accept any hormone used on fish.

  • So sex-reversed fish may not be sold to these customers

  • “Organic” markets have whole set of requirements

Important on farm management issues affecting markets

Important on-farm management issues affecting markets

  • Sex-reversal (yes or no)

  • Feed supply (lowest cost, highest quality, organic)

  • Algae control to avoid off-flavor

  • In salt water, control parasites that might scar skin or impact fillet

  • Bird control (environmental issue, loss of stocks, vector for parasites and disease)

Decisions before harvest

Decisions before harvest

  • Who will buy the fish?

  • Who will harvest the fish?

  • Is flavor of fish acceptable?

  • Testing by cooking fillet in paper bag in microwave oven. Trained taster needed.

  • Will depuration be needed? (at farm or processing plant)

  • How many days and who will test?

  • Fish should be transported live to processing site!

Transport to processing plant

Transport to processing plant

  • Best to transport live

  • May want to add salt to reduce stress and maintain quality

Processing steps

Processing steps

  • Processing line

  • Bleeding / chilling stage

  • Scale removal

  • Deheading

  • Evisceration

  • Fillet

  • Skinning

  • Trimming

Processing steps1

Processing steps

  • Processing line

  • Hand cutting, machine cutting, or mix

  • Most plants use a mixture of machine and hand

  • Need to make these basic decisions before starting plant.

  • Decide when and how to kill fish. (Chill, electric shock, bleeding or cutting head)

  • Before or after bleeding.

  • Bleed better before chilling.

  • Stay more fresh with faster chilling

  • Some prefer to kill before bleeding

Processing steps2

Processing steps

  • Scale removal

  • Most processors use rotating drum de-scalers

  • Deheading

  • Most use food grade band saw

  • Some still cut by hand

  • Handlers should use chain mail gloves

Evisceration by hand or vacuum

Evisceration, by hand or vacuum

  • Hand evisceration – less investment, no equipment to malfunction or maintain

  • Vacuum – less labor, waste is concentrated in collection tank, less mess on line

Removal of skin by hand or machine

Removal of skin, by hand or machine



  • Most plants use automated skinning

  • Most markets are requiring deep skinning, leaving more flesh on the skin

Removal of pin bones and trimming

Removal of pin bones and trimming

  • Fillets have small bones that must be removed for international markets

  • Buyers are requesting better trim of margins of fillets for more consistent appearance

Treatments value addition and packaging

Treatments, value-addition and packaging

  • Ozonated water baths

  • Carbon dioxide and Liquid Smoke

  • Freezing

  • Packaging

  • Multi-function machines

  • By-products

Processing bacterial testing

Processing - bacterial testing

  • Samples should be checked for bacterial contamination

  • Follow HACCP procedures and EU guidelines

  • Many plants are using ozone dips to reduce surface bacteria

Processing fillet line

Processing - fillet line

Blow drying fillets

Application of either:

“liquid smoke” or

some other kind of


Carbon monoxide also called liquid smoke

Carbon monoxide(also called liquid smoke)

  • CO infuses into fillet and reacts with myoglobin

  • Fillet maintains fresh appearance for longer period

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide

  • Most plants in China appear to use carbon monoxide

  • Some gas in chambers others infuse in bags before freezing

Individual bags for frozen fillets

Individual bags for frozen fillets

Vacuum sealing

Vacuum sealing

Many forms of packaging

Many forms of packaging

Iqf fillets in re sealable packages

IQF Fillets in re-sealable packages

New product forms

New product forms

Sashimi grade tilapia

Smoked tilapia

Hickory Smoked

Review rapid advances in processing and quality assurance steps

Review-Rapid advances in processing and quality assurance steps

  • Depuration stage

  • Bleeding step

  • Deep skinning

  • Additional trimming

  • Ozone dips

  • Improved packaging

  • Value added product forms

  • Faster delivery

Mexico 100 000 110 000 mt

Mexico - 100,000 - 110,000 mt

Tilapia-shrimp farm in Sonora

Pond Tilapia farm

in Tamaulipas

Mexican consumption of tilapia

Mexican Consumption of Tilapia

  • 110,000,000 kg ≈ one kg/per capita/year

  • US consumption ≈ 0.3 kg/capita/year

  • Most Mexican consumption is domestic, few imports from China

Tilapia production in mexico

Tilapia production in Mexico

  • Production in most states of Mexico

  • Most production in southern states

  • Veracruz has greatest production

  • Intensive in north, lake ranching in south

  • Repopulation of reservoirs

  • Problem with FAO definition of aquaculture

  • Tilapia-shrimp polyculture in seawater

Markets in mexico

Markets in Mexico

Raceway system

  • Strong domestic markets; on ice, fillets in grocery stores

  • All domestic consumption – Exports are minimal.

Live markets in mexico

Live markets in Mexico

  • Live markets (≈ 30 pesos/kg)

  • Established live markets in Guadalajara and Mexico City

  • Need to develop live markets in other cities (Asians are first customers)

  • May need to provide live tanks to retailers (allows you to exclude competitors)

Fresh product markets in mexico

Fresh product markets in Mexico

  • Regional and local markets (15-20 pesos/kg)

  • Wide recognition across Mexico

  • 110,000 MT annual consumption

  • Virtually zero exports, this is a prime opportunity

Frozen product markets in mexico

Frozen product markets in Mexico

  • Strong markets (10-15 pesos/kg)

  • Established channels for processing and distribution

  • Problem with frozen imports from China

  • Should be a temporary problem as costs rise in China and transportation costs increase

  • (Of course future change in costs in China does not help tilapia farmer in Mexico today)

Global tilapia sales

Global Tilapia Sales

  • For year 2000

  • US $ 1,706,538,200(FAO Fisheries Circular No. 886)

  • 2005 sales >$ 3,000,000,000

  • 2010 sales >$ 5,000,000,000

Top ten seafoods u s per capita lbs

Top Ten Seafoods (U.S.)per capita (lbs)

Us tilapia aquaculture

US Tilapia Aquaculture

  • 9,200 mt per year (20,000,000 lbs)

  • California is largest producer

  • ID, NC, FL, TX, AZ, NY,PA, MA are also significant producers

  • Virtually all tilapia in US for live sales

  • Asian groceries and restaurants are primary market outlets

Nutritional quality contributes to popularity

Nutritional quality contributes to popularity

  • USDA has completed a complete highly technical nutritional analysis. Now is preparing nutritional report on tilapia for the general public

  • New USDA “Pyramid” guidelines further support frequent fish consumption

Nutritional quality of tilapia contributes to popularity

Nutritional quality of tilapia contributes to popularity

  • Moderate in PUFA’s: 0.387 g/100g raw

    0.600 g/100g cooked

  • Moderate omega 3 FA’s:0.141 g/100g raw

    0.220 g/100g cooked

    Source – USDA- ARS Lab

  • Low in mercury: Tilapia = 0.01 ppm

    Shark = 0.99 ppm

    Source FDA


Us market development

US market development

  • The LAND opens at EPCOT in 1983 – features tilapia culture and on menu in the Good Turn Restaurant

  • Farms in ID, CA, FL & AZ begin sales to Asian stores and restaurants

  • Farms in Colombia, Costa Rica, Jamaica Taiwan, and Indonesia begin imports

Market evolution in us

Market evolution in US

  • Ethnic buyers (Asians, Latino & African)

  • Live markets

  • Up-scale restaurants

  • Casual dining

  • Club stores and hypermarkets

  • Local groceries

Us consumption of tilapia from domestic and imported sources

US Consumption of tilapia from domestic and imported sources

Tilapia aquaculture an overview harvest processing marketing in us and mexico

US Tilapia consumption412,148,000 lbs (187,000 mt)of live weight-2003504,716,000 lbs (229,000 mt)of live weight-2004

19 480 mt fresh fillets 36 160 mt frozen fillets 57 2990 mt whole frozen 2004

19,480 mt fresh fillets, 36,160 mt frozen fillets, 57,2990 mt whole frozen (2004)

174 215 165 2002 241 205 610 2003 297 413 000 2004 352 305 388 est 2005

$174,215,165 (2002)$241,205,610 (2003)$297,413,000 (2004) $ 352,305,388 (est 2005)

Us sales of tilapia

US Sales of tilapia

  • Imports in 2004 were $297,413,261

  • US production of $40,000,000 at farm

  • 2004 Total US tilapia sales were over $337,000,000

  • 2005 Sales estimate –

    $176,152,694 (Jan-June imports) *2=$352,305,388 + $40,000,000 = $392,000,000

Current us market trends

Current US Market Trends

  • Increase in demand for all forms of tilapia

  • Demand increase will be greatest for fresh fillets

  • Demand increase will be smallest for live tilapia

Tilapia the green farmed fish

Tilapia the “Green” farmed fish

  • Herbivore / omnivore, low trophic level feeder

  • Algae, bacteria, and detritus are important food sources

  • Prepared feeds are mostly grains and ag by-products

  • Can be reared in high densities, with low water exchange

  • Disease resistant and tolerant of poor water quality. Anti-biotics and chemicals are rarely used.

The environmental fish

The “environmental” fish

  • Promoted by aid agencies and NGO’s

  • Dr. M. Gupta wins World Food Prize for promotion of tilapia aquaculture, June 10, 2005

  • Does not prey on other species

  • Often used in integrated farming systems

  • Frequently reared in reservoirs and irrigation systems with effluents used for irrigation, reducing fertilizer applications

Tilapia market trends

Tilapia Market Trends

Prices have been constant or trending down for several years, will not increase with inflation


Global aquaculture production of tilapia

Global aquaculture production of tilapia

Advertising at all levels

Advertising at all levels



Cooking contests and gastronomic festivals

Cooking contests and gastronomic festivals

Tilapia by products

Tilapia by-products

  • Leather goods from skins

  • Pharmaceuticals from skins

  • Formed fish products

  • Fertilizer

  • Fish meal

Tilapia leather

Tilapia Leather

Flowers made from tilapia scales

Flowers made from Tilapia scales

Future global tilapia production

Future global tilapia production

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