Paiche Instead of Chilean Sea Bass
The biggest importer of paiche into the US is aiming to offer paiche as a replacement for the much more expensive Chilean sea bass. The two biggest producers are Brazil and Peru, but the industry…
Paiche (Arapaima gigas) is the largest scaled fish species living in the Amazon basin. As an aquaculture species and product it has a lot of potential, as it is fast growing and has firm white meat with few intramuscular bones. In 2016 there were 499 registered, small-scale paiche farmers using extensive culture in ponds, but a lot of unregistered, informal farmers also exist. Farming of paiche in the Peruvian Amazon is in a very primitive phase and has to overcome a few obstacles before it could be considered a serious aquaculture product. At the moment, farmers know how to (re-)produce paiche and grow them up to 10-12 kilos, but lack knowledge on making adjustments to their farming practices regarding water management and environmental impact which are now limited or non-existent. In addition, issues arise after the fish has reached its commercial size, like: i) lack of refrigerated facilities near the farms, ii) expensive and risky transport from farms to processing plants in Lima and iii) lack of knowledge on microbiological requirements needed for export. Last but not least, fry production fully depends on spontaneous reproduction, making farmers unable to guarantee a stable supply. Despite these problems however, paiche is a beautiful product for the European market which will definitely find its way to the higher level markets worldwide (indication of cost price clean fillet: US$ 15.00/kg ex Lima). With the help of many (inter-)national public and private institutions to help the sector mature in the coming years, paiche is a fish of the future.
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