Understanding the economic and farming practices driving species selection in aquaculture within the Mymensingh division of Bangladesh
Aquaculture is a major supplier of animal protein for Bangladesh’s population, and the Mymensingh division is a major contributor to finfish aquaculture, producing 43% of the total pond pangasius and 9% of the total amount of tilapia (figures from 2018). We conducted a finfish farmer survey covering Netrokona, Jamalpur and Mymensingh districts to understand current finfish farming practices and identify factors that drive farmers in their species choice between pangasius or tilapia cultivation. We found that most finfish farmers in Mymensingh are experienced practitioners and practise polyculture with a range of stocking densities for each species. Using an economic model of polyculture practice, we have shown that over a production cycle, pangasius gain body mass at a rate nearly 4 times greater than that for tilapia, resulting in substantially larger revenues and providing a strong incentive for their culture. High levels of tilapia aquaculture likely persist due to their short production cycle and an associated decreased economic risk due to crop loss from disease, both factors providing a strong incentive for their culture. Our findings also indicate production yield differences through different species selection in polyculture systems. For example, co-culturing pangasius, tilapia and carp together was less productive than co-culture of pangasius with tilapia. Furthermore, higher yields of tilapia were obtained when co-cultured with carp compared with pangasius, the reasons for which are not known and warrant further investigation. Our study uses information provided by finfish farmers to produce a useful guide on fish species choices to maximise production yields, and therefore food production, from their ponds.