ISLAMABAD (APP) - All is set to launch a pilot project for production of high value hybrid fish species Tilapia and Pangasius for the first time in Pakistan on fish farms spread over twenty thousand acres in Alipur Chattha, Gujranwala. Arif Aslam Khan, the Chief Executive Officer of the Fisheries Development Board (FDB), in a briefing here said that Pakistan imports over 3000 metric tons of Pangasius every year consuming huge foreign exchange. In view of the national interest, he said that a small scale intervention was made to produce Tilapia in Pakistan that has been successful with about five metric ton per acre as compared to 8 metric ton per hector in Bangladesh. The cage system was used in experimental intervention that is quite popular world over for the production of Tilapia, Pangasius and other such kind of high value species, he added. Earlier the cage system had been a failure in Pakistan. Arif Aslam said that he had no idea to what reason it could fail. However, he said that it could be successful because of our identification of the species that could survive and grow in the cage system. The other factors are the size and type of seed and the kind of feed provided to the seed-fish, he added. During the experimental intervention, a stringent monitoring system was adhered to ensure the smooth production process, he noted. Arif told that Fisheries Development Board would provide the Tilapia seed fish free of cost to the fish farmers in the larger pilot phase. They hoped southeast Asian countries would donate the Tilapia and Pangasius seed fish as they have promised to do so. The FDB Chief Executive is quite optimistic that Pakistan would be able to cater its national needs after the success of the pilot phase, and would also be exporting to USA, UK, European Union and Russia later on. We have asked the fish farmers in Alipur Chattha to organize themselves in the form of association to smoothly run the pilot phase, and to share experiences and knowledge, he said deliberating on the methodology. Several retail outlets will be opened around the fish farms in Alipur Chattha next month to ensure the provision of quality nutritious fish feed to the fish farmers, the FDB chief said adding, while a hatchery for the Tilapia and Pangasius fish will be established in the private sector under the supervision of their association for seed production for the next year. A Tilapia fish market is also planned at a central place where the fish would be brought in a very hygienic way by the trained fishermen, whereas an ice factory is also being established to provide sufficient ice to the farmers to store their production and to transport it across the country under the monitoring of FDB, he concluded.