The benefits to the consumer of farm-raised fish are many. It is consistently high quality and, unlike ocean-caught fish, is available all year long at a price unaffected by external environmental conditions.
Catfish in the United States sells more than any other farmed species, selling $421 million in 1998. This is compared to $104 million of farm raised salmon and $24 million of farm raised Tilapia in the same year.
Catfish farming is rapidly expanding throughout the US, Africa and Asia. Catfish farming clubs have been formed in many areas which encourage local farmers to conduct environmentally friendly fish farming methods which improve the quality of fish and reduce the impact of the process on the environment.
Since 2000, related import-export companies can now test for antibiotic residue and hold certification to export to EU standards.
As a species, catfish do not require much space to farm and so have a minimal impact on the environment. They are fed a pelleted diet however in contrast to other species which use pellets made of other ‘trash’ fish species, catfish (in the US) are fed high-protein pellets made of soybeans, corn, wheat, vitamins and minerals.
Farm-raised catfish feed on these surface floating pellets and not from the bottom which gives the fish a milder taste than its wild cousin.
Vietnamese catfish are farmed in the fast-flowing waters of the Mekong which give the meat a cleaner taste than other fish raised in stagnant ponds, where algae impart a noticeable ‘off flavour’.
Depending on the species, catfish may be harvested for production anywhere between four and 18 months old. This fast growth rate to production size makes them economically viable to produce in these conditions.
Basa catfish, the most commonly imported Vietnamese variety, reaches production size in around a year.
Catfish are a great alternative to grouper or cod, having a flaky, delicate texture and light flavour and being low in fat (6g per 4oz serving) and high in protein (17g per 4oz serving).
Cayman Sea Sense is dedicated to helping consumers make informed and environmentally positive seafood choices. For more information on this and other seafood options please visit www.nationaltrust.org.ky/seasense.html or contact [email protected].