Tilapia is a common name designating fishes of the Cichlidae family. This brand name comes from the Latin form of thiape, a word that means “fish” in béchouana – an African language. It includes three genera within cichlids: Oreochromis, Tilapia, and Sarotherodon. They originate in Africa and Near or Middle East. The size varies between 5 and 50 centimeters. These fresh or brackish fishes water are bred and consumed widely in the world.
The first notes of the tilapia breeding go back to ancient Egypt 4,000 years ago, but its commercial exploitation begins in South Africa by Belgian and English settlers, because of meat shortages caused by World War II. After the war, researchers have discovered how to get fully male population, which grows two times faster than females and the genetic selection allowed to improve further the resistance of the fish to diseases.
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In 2009 tilapia is produced in more than 75 countries, the largest producers being China, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Egypt, British, Cuba, Mexico, and Israel.
To six species, the hybrids and crossbreeds must be added. It is mainly Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and Java Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus), also called Mozambique Tilapia.
Some species are considered under domestication, as their breeding cycle is fully mastered. That allows to improve the quality of these species in terms of livestock through the genetic.
Tilapia were introduced into many streams and rivers of Africa or Asia, often to fill an empty niche or to feed the local population. This is the case of Lates niloticus, but also that of Mozambique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) in smaller scale, which have unfortunately become locally invasive species, and contributed to the extinction of indigenous species.
These freshwater fishes have white firm flesh and are virtually devoid of bones. Tilapia has a taste that varies depending on the salinity of the water in which it lives. Its flavor is stronger in wild individuals. It is rich in vitamin B, in vitamin D, in selenium, and phosphorus. This lean fish contains two fatty acids of the family of omega-3, the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). During pregnancy, tilapia is an excellent source of nutrients for the mother or the fetus especially in protein, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
Tilapia is one of the most consumed fish species United States.
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