Experts push farming of the “world’s most edible fish”

Researchers at the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD) in the Philippines are promoting the pompano farming industry after a successful harvest.

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
29 September 2022, at 7:36am
harvesting fish
Successful pompano harvest

Pompano harvest at the Igang Marine Station of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD) at Guimaras © NG Armada

A delectable fish that needs no seasoning, no need for scaling, has few bones, fits perfectly on a pan, and whose mild and sweet flavour suits almost any recipe. It’s no wonder that the pompano is called by some to be the “world’s most edible fish.”

This silvery fish, with a pearly-white meat when cooked, is known as “apahan” or “dawis lawin” in the Philippines. Its market price is between P300 and P500 per kilogram, depending on size, which is usually between 250 to 500 grams.

Pompano naturally inhabit coral reefs, but they also adapt well to being farmed in marine fish cages and brackishwater fishponds where they grow fast and readily take in formulated feeds.

However, despite its proven culinary and aquaculture value worldwide, pompano is yet to take off in the Philippines. This is mainly because of the lack of pompano fingerlings to stock into cages and ponds, and sea lice infections.

Regardless, an international research centre based in Tigbauan, Iloilo is bent on promoting the pompano as the next big thing in Philippine aquaculture.

“We have been actively researching the snubnose pompano since 2007, but in the past two years we have intensified our commercialisation projects to show the industry that pompano farming is a good investment,” shared Dan Baliao, chief of SEAFDEC/AQD.

Between January and August 2022, Baliao added that they harvested pompano 10 times from both marine cages and brackishwater ponds, netting a total of 14 tonnes of the high-value commodity through its multiple experimental runs.

The research centre is also constructing a dedicated pompano hatchery at its Tigbauan headquarters to further boost its research and commercialisation activities. The new facility has a rearing capacity of 80 tonnes and may also supply private farmers.

snubnose pompano
Snubnose pompano

Snubnose pompano harvested at the Igang Marine Station of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD) at Guimaras © H Gemalaya

Baliao also shared that SEAFDEC/AQD has already published research and continues to do studies on multiple fronts, including the development of a low-cost diet, strategies to accelerate growth in the nursery stage, reducing sea lice infestations and preventing transmission of nervous necrosis virus that affects pompano breeders and larvae.

Alternative to milkfish?

Because pompano is relatively easy to raise and uses the same pond and cage setup, Baliao said the pompano is a good alternative to milkfish, which is currently the top-farmed fish in the Philippines.

“With its superior taste and premium value, pompano is something fish farmers should seriously consider. The Philippines just needs more investments in pompano hatcheries to provide the seeds that farmers will need.”

To this end, Baliao says SEAFDEC/AQD has been in close partnership with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) since 2018 in designing and setting up multi-species hatcheries around the country.

“It will just be a matter of time. The technology to produce pompano is there, and SEAFDEC continues to add refinements every year. Help us commercialise our science, and you will soon taste and see that pompano is good.”

Marine and brackish water culture

SEAFDEC/AQD has been raising pompano in marine fish cages since 2008, feeding them formulated feeds. A stocking density of 35 fish per cubic meter is used in the sea cages which are 10 meters wide, 10 meters long and 4 meters deep.

In fish cage culture, fish can be stocked at higher densities, harvest is easier and predation is more easily controlled. The constantly flowing water also provides abundant dissolved oxygen and flushes away waste products and unconsumed feeds.

Milkfish fry
Milkfish fry

Researchers believe that pompano could be a good alternative to milkfish © JF Aldon

The research centre also raises the pompano in 5,000 square meter brackishwater ponds, with the salinity as low as 20 ppt, at a stocking density of 0.5 to two fish per square meter. In pond culture, there are no expenses for nets and mooring, and natural food can grow – reducing the demand for commercial feeds.

Whether in cages or in ponds, it takes four to five months for the fish to reach marketable size.