The Basics of Pangasius Aquaculture, Part 3 Market

What is its export market potential?

  • A: To lessen import and at the same time, earn plus points by exporting.
  • B: Biggest market is Europe, as well as US and Australia. We’d like to ship samples.
  • C: The market potential of Pangasius is very big since many countries are really net importers of this fish and Vietnam’s production is really increasing. These are just some of the factors why we think that there is a big potential in the international market and that this fish can help the aquatic industry grow when we would export fillets.

Physical Characteristics

Naturally, the Pangasius lives in the two main streams of the Mekong Delta, called Cuu Long and the Nine Mouths of the Dragon. They are the River Tien in the northern part of the Delta and the River Hau that runs from the Cambodian border South through the region of An Giang to reach the Sea.

All the Pangasius found living here in the Wild have been classified and developed by French scientists into two species for farming. The first fish they farmed was the Pangasius bocourti also called Basa by the Vietnamese. This fish needs 12 months to grow to market size of about 2 kilos of weight and gives a white fillet meat of high fat content.

Like most catfishes, Pangasius’ body is elongated and the tail is deeply forked. It has a cylindrical body and a dorsal portion that is grayish. Its stomach is whitish. They have large eyes and a small mouth. The body is silver to blue with a silver iridescence. The back is darker than the main body color. A slender, horizontal, white stripe extends from the base of the tail to the gill cover. The fins are light gray to transparent. The fins are dark grey or black.

Juveniles have a black stripe along the lateral line and a second black stripe below the lateral line. They have a black stripe along the lateral line and a second black stripe below the lateral line; they have a shiny, iridescent color that gives these fish their name. However, large adults are uniformly grey and lack the striping. Adults reach up to 130 cm (4 ft) in length and can weigh up to a maximum of 44.0 kg (97 lb).

Adult Pangasius choose large bodies of water similar to the deep waters of its native Mekong River Basin. Pangasius Catfish are a freshwater fish that natively live in a tropical climate and prefer water with a 22 to 26 °C.

The Pangasius has a typical appearance with its black back and white belly, so it is the only White Catfish in the world. Under the chin the fish wears some fat storage in a skin sack. This fat-store has the same purpose like the fat layers under the back of the salmon. This fat is used to grow the eggs and the sperm before maturing.

In the wild, their omnivorous diet consists of crustaceans, other fish, and plant matter. Catfish feed mostly from the ground and have no teeth. They have small whiskers that can feel in the dark of the water small plants and animals that are swallowed then.

Dealing with Juveniles

Juvenile iridescent sharks are often sold as pets for home aquariums. Nonetheless, they are not easy to watch over and are not suggested for most home aquariums. Iridescent sharks are schooling fish that prefer to be kept in groups of 5 or more. Juveniles are initially omnivores but eventually turn herbivorous when they grow up.

Familiarized to living in rivers, they are very lively fish that have need of a lot of space. If strained, their first impulse is to run off, and such a blind sprint can result in injuries, especially in an aquarium setting. These attempts to escape may be terminated by the fish sinking to the bottom, where it may lie on its side or back until it recovers. They also have bad eyesight so they may swim into the glass of a tank and hurt themselves.

Numerous fish owners are unconscious of the massive size that an iridescent shark can attain. If given enough space and fed satisfactorily, an individual of this species can achieve 3 feet in length. In most home aquariums, the amount of space an iridescent shark has rigorously stunts its enlargement. Consequently, most iridescent sharks kept in home aquaria develop to only six to twelve inches in length. As a rule of thumb, an iridescent shark requires a minimum tank size of 150 cm (5 feet). Schools require even larger tanks.

The biggest challenge for the Vietnamese Pangasius farmers and the aquaculture industry in general was to grow their own juveniles. In Vietname, all the areas that produce Pangasius today, that are An Giang (145,500 tons annually), Can Tho (93,000 tons), Dong Thap (81,500 tons), Vinh Long (35,000 tons), Soc Trang (15,000 tons) and Hau Giang (6,300 tons) in 2005, can supply juveniles themselves from the hatchery now.

Ultimately, the Pangasius Catfish is a traveler. A migratory species, moving upstream of the Mekong from unknown rearing areas to reproduce in unidentified areas from May to July and returning to the mainstream when the river waters fall seeking rearing habitats in September until December.

Upstream migration occurs from October to February, with peak in November and December. This migration is set off by diminishing water and appears to be a dispersal migration following the lateral migration from swamped areas back into the Mekong at the end of the flood season. Downstream migration takes place from May to August from Cambodia and further into the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

Dr. Alma Palma, BFAR’s Station Manager explained, “Pangasius was actually brought by the ornamental fish traders. It’s called a freshwater hammerhead shark. It was brought to National Event Fisheries Technology Center in Tanay where a part of the private sector wanted to culture it commercially in Laguna. We started to culture it there and at that time, there was no demand for its meat yet.”

Iridescent sharks originated from the large rivers Chao Phraya and Mekong in Asia, though they have been introduced into other rivers for aquaculture. They are a freshwater fish that natively live in a tropical climate and prefer water with a 6.5 – 7.5 pH, a water hardness of 2.0 to 29.0 dGH, and a temperature range of 72 to 79 °F (22 to 26 °C).

They prefer large bodies of water similar to the deep waters of their native Mekong river basin. The iridescent shark is a migratory fish that moves upstream to spawn during the flood season while the waters are high and returns downstream to seek rearing habitats when the river water levels recede. Upstream migration in this species appears to be triggered by receding waters. At the end of the flood season, the fish migrate back downstream away from flooded waters. The dates of the migrations vary depending on the river system. In the Mekong river basin, they migrate upstream in May to July and return downstream during September through December. South of the Khone Falls, upstream migration occurs in October to February, with its peak in November to December.

author: Hans Audrice B. Estalbo, Marid Digest

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