The Tilapia Story


The National Fisheries Biological Center in Butong, Taal, Batangas, raises a variety of commercial and aquarium fishes such as tinfoil, kitang, bagaong, bangus, hammerhead goldfish, koi, red paco, guppy, and the Siamese fighting fish.

A cousin of mine, Felicisimo Mercene, an aquaculturist, was responsible for the spread of the “pla-pla” (Tilapia Nilotica) in the country, which he started in a fishpond in Calamba, Laguna in 1972.

From a batch of 48 fingerlings from Thailand brought to the country by then the National Fisheries Research Development Institute, Mercene, with the assistance of Dr. Jack Dendy, an American limnologist, was able to raise 12 tilapia to maturity; the rest were lost to the flood that overflowed his pond following a strong typhoon.

Those that got away started the wild tilapia in the lake.

Out of these even dozen tilapia breeders, Mercene was able to raise thousands of fingerlings. These were given away to some local government units and to the residents of barangay Kabaritan, Calamba.

Pla-pla is the ideal fish to breed, either commercially or as a hobby. Grown in fish cages or aquarium, it multiplies like crazy, eats vegetable matter and insects, grows to as much as five kilograms, and has high tolerance for high-stocking density and poor water quality.

Lakeshore dwellers were the first to raise tilapia in fish cages and in a few years their shanties became concrete structures with tiled floors and TV antennas sprouting from their roofs, proof of the profitability of their early ventures in tilapia aquaculture.

Tilapia aquaculture has grown into a multi-million-peso industry. It is now the fifth most important fish in fish farming worldwide. Locally, tilapia has practically overtaken the bangus industry as the Filipino’s affordable and tasty table fish.

Another species of tilapia, the Mozambica, was brought here by Deogracias Villadolid, director of fisheries in the 1950s, but this were small varieties that failed to catch the attention of breeders.


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