The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources has announced a temporary ban on the importation of tilapia fingerlings as a preventive measure against the Tilapia Lake Virus, a disease which is already killing tilapia in Tanzania, Egypt, Ecuador and Colombia.
The virus infects both wild and aquaculture populations of tilapia, and presents symptoms of skin congestion and erosion, discoloration, abnormal behaviour, lethargy, loss of appetite, pallor, anaemia, exophthalmia and abdominal swelling.
According to Mathilde Mukasekuru, a fish specialist at the ministry, Rwanda imports most of its fingerlings from China and Uganda, countries now on high risk of getting the disease.
"We cannot say the specific time the virus will end, but we have to prevent it from spreading here, working together with fish farmers," she said.
Importers of other species of fingerlings will require permission from the ministry.
The ministry statement reads: “All fish farmers should adopt preventive measures by stopping to plant fingerlings from anywhere; not exchange their fishery and fish farming equipment; take care of their ponds and be attentive to the strange symptoms which may occur to their fish.”
Rwanda produced 31,465 tonnes of fish in 2018-2019, and is targeting 112,000 tonnes by 2024, to reduce imports from China and other countries, which sometimes don't meet the desired quality, according to the Agriculture ministry.