Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Farmed fish

I love (to watch and to eat) fish, particularly groupers or other coral fish. They are so colorful, so elegant, and - so tasty. I heard that Hong Kong imports 22,000 tons of salt-water fish yearly, valued at 3.3 billon dollars.

At the same time, I understand that our eating so much coral fish is depleting the stock so much that some species are being threatened with extinction. To eat - or not to eat. Such a dilemma.

We can, of course, eat farmed coral fish. But so far they are not doing such a good job farming coral fish. The flesh is usually tougher, and much less tasty. I can even distinguish farmed coral fish from ocean-caught ones just by looking at them, most of the time. They are usually fatter, rounder, darker and more muted in colour. Some members of my family would complain if I bought a farmed fish accidentally.

I heard that Hong Kong produces only 600 tons of farmed salt-water fish, mainly from cages floating in the sea. That’s miniscule compared to the ocean catch. Part of the reason is that the sea water around Hong Kong is so polluted and the temperature so unstable. So there is a hugh potential market for farmed coral fish.

Now some people are beginning to farm fish on land. They seem to have solved the problems of farming using man-made sea-water. The cost is higher. But they have better control of the water quality, and the fish get sick less. They claim that the quality of the fish so produced is getting better, and approaching wild catches. They are concentrating on fast growing species such as giant groupers. I am hoping they can move on to leopard groupers, spotted coral groupers, slender groupers, camouflage groupers, etc.

I am really looking forward to the day when farmed coral fish is just as good as wild catches. Then I can eat them with a clear conscience.

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