One of the major challenges of the aquaculture sector in Kenya is the scarcity of quality fish seed. Consequently, most Kenyan farmers do not use certified quality seed. To address this, two national fish selective breeding programs for Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) have been initiated at the NARDTC with collaboration with donor project and the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute. The aim is to develop a national breeding nuclei with multiplication centres and hatcheries to distribute quality broodstock to hatcheries. A third breeding improvement program for ningu, the African carp (Labeo victorianus) is at formative stages at KMFRI, Sangoro Aquaculture Centre with the involvement of staff of the NARDTC.
The breeding program is supported by the Government of Kenya's Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Project (KAPAP) with activities aimed at up-scaling the breeding program for Catfish and Tilapia and to disseminate quality brood-stock to fish hatcheries in the country. The hatcheries will in turn produce quality fingerlings for sale to fish farmers within their localities. Hatchery operators will benefit from the breeding program through being able to produce quality fish seed with faster growth, high survival and resistance to fish diseases leading to higher investment returns. The long-term objective of the breeding program is to enable fish farmers to access adequate genetically improved quality fingerlings of tilapia, catfish and Ningu at designated local hatcheries. The desirable traits obtained from the baseline survey are faster growth and improved survival and these have been incorporated into the on-going selective breeding programmes at Sagana and Sangoro to ensure that the specific requirements of the fish farmers are met.
A total of 180 hatchery managers have also been trained at NARDTC Sagana through government assistance on methods of producing and testing for quality seed and 44 hatchery managers trained in monosex tilapia production. Hatcheries authenticated by the government are frequently monitored and hatchery skills and practices of the hatcheries have been documented to identify areas which require training. This training is to be expanded to trout and mariculture hatcheries at Kiganjo and Ngomeni.
A database of genetics and breeding data is being prepared to ensure that the data is more useful to share with other researchers and end-users. Besides this, plans are underway to use new genetic technologies such as Bioinformatics, Genomics and DNA fingerprinting techniques to make the breeding programmes more efficient. To this end, a genetic laboratory is to be constructed and the genetic sequencing and analysis equipment and software installed at the centre. This is expected to significantly improve the yields in our aquaculture farms.