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The GIFT of food

Local businessman Duke Purcell of Puna Valley Farms in Mapusaga Fou, believes he is the first and only fish farmer on island farming the Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT) fish.

The Tilapia that most fish farmers grow here on island take about a year to grow up to 12 inches, but according to Purcell, the GIFT Tilapia grow to about 12 and half inches in the same amount of time, but he says they are fatter, with more meat.

“We are raising this GIFT Tilapia that we got from Samoa. On the first try to bring the fish over from Samoa, I had some problems with them and a lot of them died, but on the second try we were lucky to get another fifty-four fish,” said Purcell.

“We were able to get the oxygen pumps from Land Grant, which helped us a lot,” he explained. “We then tied a small plastic bag in a container and with that, we were able to bring fifty four fish with us from Samoa”.

He added when he arrived at his fish farm, he had to change the water very slowly for the fish to adapt for survival. From the 54 GIFT Tilapia brought in three and half months ago from Samoa, there are now over one thousand small ones, according to Purcell.

“What I have learned about these GIFT Talipia, is that they will grow a foot and a half in a year. The local Tilapia that farmers are growing right now in American Samoa, take a little longer to grow to full length and are not as long and thick.

“The GIFT Tilapia are about six inches longer, wider and grow faster. I was very fortunate to get these fish.

 “We will have to wait and see, but as of right now, they are doing really well. Last week we gave over one hundred small ones to the American Samoa Community College Land Grant so they can have some to raise for themselves.

“I wouldn’t mind if there were other farmers in the territory raising them also, because the hard work has already been done, by going to Samoa and bringing them over here.”

He went on to say that growing this GIFT Tilapia has been going on for some time over in Samoa and that they are immune to some diseases that occur in the local Tilapia.

According to, Tilapia is the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fish from the Tilapiine cichlid tribe. Tilapia inhabit a variety of fresh water habitats, including shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes. Historically, they have been of major importance in artisan fishing in Africa and the Levant and are of increasing importance in aquaculture.

Of note, Tilapia has become the third most important fish in aquaculture after carp and salmon; worldwide production exceeded 1,500,000 metric tons in 2002 and has increased annually. The Tilapia fisheries originated in Africa.

It is sold locally frozen and is imported.

The World Fish Center website, www.worldfishcenter.org, says Tilapias are farmed in more than 85 countries, and have many desirable qualities such as: stocking density and resistance to diseases.