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First Biomarine Fish In 'Cages'

BRUNEI - The first 300 tiger grouper fingerlings were released into the deep-sea fish cages of the newly-formed Brunei-China joint-venture.

Another 80,000 golden pompano (trachinotu blochii) have been ordered by the company, which targets an annual production of about 400 tonnes of high-value fish within two years.

Speaking to The Brunei Times, the company's Chinese investor Zheng Zhen X iong from Raoping Jin Hang Deep Sea Cage Development Co Ltd said the company was looking to bring in the new stock after all the facilities were in place to support the operations of the cages, located near the Pelong Rocks offshore from Muara Town.

He said they needed facilities such as a floating site office, a workboat and the import permit, which is expected to take at least a month to procure.

There are currently eight 43-metre circumference, high-density polyethylene (HOPE), anti-wave cages at the site. Each cage has a six-metre deep net, which has the capacity to hold up to about 5,000 one-kilogramme groupers or 10,000 700-gramme golden pompano.

The company is also looking to rear a third species, lutjanus johnii, commonly known as "John's snapper".

BioMarine plans to add another 20 cages within six months, and ultimately have 80 cages in two years. A total of $1.45 million has been invested in the aquaculture project, with the company aiming to break-even in five years.

However, this figure does not include the $6 million to be injected later for supporting projects, such as a halal fish-processing facility.

"This (facility) will help to provide an external market for local fishermen and reduce the high- and low-season price fluctuations they face now," a statement from BioMarine said.

Brunei Fisheries Director Hjh Hasnah Ibrahim said she hoped the project would encourage other Bruneians to take up the business. They could sell their fish to BioMarine, thus opening up the export market for these local entrepreneurs, she explained.

"We need to produce in large volumes in order for export to be feasible," she told The Brunei Times. "Therefore, local operators who wish to export can piggy-back on this joint-venture company."

The government's role in the project was as a promoter of exporting fish products, the fisheries director added.

In 2008, fish cage production in Brunei was about 42 tonnes, according to Department of Fisheries. It was last reported that 60 tonnes have been produced so far this year, far below the potential 220 tonnes the country should have been able to produce.

BioMarine will be eyeing the Middle East, Europe and China markets for export, according to Zheng. The company will also be investing in two ships to transport the high-value live fish.

"The comparatively short distance to southern China is conducive to shipping of live fish to Guangzhou, Hong Kong and even Taiwan," the statement said.

the Fish Site Editor

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