Why Tilapia Fish is Not Good for Health, Environment

Why Tilapia Fish is Not Good for Health, EnvironmentWhy Tilapia Fish is Not Good for Health, Environment

The Advocacy Group for Wetland Conservation, a NGO, has in a letter to President Hassan Rouhani urged him to prevent the entry of the non-native tilapia species into the country’s aquatic resources. The group has sent copies of the letter to Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president and head of the Department of Environment (DoE) and Mahmoud Hojjati, minister of agriculture jihad to issue appropriate directives to the fisheries organization in this regard.

While the fisheries organization insists on tilapia fish production, environmentalists consider it a serious threat to the marine ecosystem, reports say.

Unfortunately the entry of this invasive and non-native species has seriously threatened the country’s aquatic environment. Even international environmental communities have warned about the “destructive impact of the species on the environment,” Mehr News agency reported

The fish has a very short period and very high rate of reproduction. Actually the fish has potential of spawning every two months (each time 2700 eggs). The species also has the ability to withstand the harshest environmental conditions, such as low oxygen and wide range of water salinity and temperature. Tilapia is an omnivore.

On the other hand, the species has high potential of transmission to the natural water resources, dams, etc; therefore it can put the country’s aquatic environment biodiversity at risk at “an unimaginable speed.”


Meanwhile, Hassan Salehi, head of Iran Fisheries Organization and deputy minister of fisheries at the ministry of agriculture jihad, responding to the letter said: “At present, annually 5 million tons of tilapia fish is cultured across the world, and according to FAO forecast the amount of production will reach 15 million tons in 2020. We should prevent the fish from entering our natural rivers,” he added.

Allaying concerns, he said: “We are culturing the fish in the provinces where there are no natural rivers including Yazd, Kerman, Semnan, Qom and Markazi Provinces and there is no concern about the entry of the fish  into natural water resources. We are also planning to culture only male fish to prevent any problems,” he pointed out.

Masoumeh Ebtekar, head of the DoE, said permit for tilapia aquaculture in the country has not been granted and “its farming is illegal.”

“If we receive any report on the breeding of the fish in the country, it will be dealt with according to law, as it’s definitely an illegal activity,” she added.

Human Khakpour, spokesman of the advocacy group said “putting other aquatic species to the risk of disease is one of the other negative consequences of tilapia on the environment.”

Apart from ecological impacts, the fish produces unfavorable meat (unfavorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6).

Initially the production of the fish may appear to be low cost but in the long term its production has negative social and economical consequences, “such as loss of jobs and indigenous livelihoods,” he said.

Tilapia is originally from Africa and America and it is among the world’s 100 worst marine invasive species which has been recorded in the list of international environment conservation organizations.

 High in Fatty Acids

One of the biggest health benefits of eating fish is omega 3. But unfortunately tilapia has potentially detrimental long chain fatty acids of omega 6; therefore it is not a good choice for individuals who eat fish to prevent inflammatory problems such as heart diseases.

Like omega-3, omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated and help lower blood cholesterol levels; however, they are thought to play a role in clotting function, are inflammatory and susceptible to oxidation; thereby possibly increasing risk for blood clots, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and cancers.

In 2008, researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine released a study comparing fatty acid levels among popular fish. It found that tilapia contained far less omega-3 fatty acid than other American favorites, such as salmon and mackerel. According to the paper, salmon also has a “more favorable” omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. While both fatty acids are important, omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties that play a critical role in brain development and cognitive function and may prevent diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

The report said that the “inflammatory potential of hamburger (80 percent lean) is lower than the average serving of farmed tilapia (100 gm).” Therefore people may not want to eat tilapia every day, but that doesn’t mean it has to be avoided altogether.