Mekong fish breeding offers commercial opportunities

Laos can now breed a number of Mekong fish species, creating opportunities for Lao farmers to raise the fish for commercial purposes amid rising demand for fresh water fish.

Livestock and Fisheries Department officials revealed they have successfully bred nine Mekong fish species including pa phone (Cirrhinus microlepis), pa phia (Labeo chrysophekadion) and pa kheung (Hemibagrus wychioides), which is favoured for its taste.

The department has established model breeding centres in Vientiane as well as Luang Prabang, Luang Namtha and Champassak province, the Fisheries Division Director, Mr Sommano Phounsavath told Vientiane Times last week.

At present, the price of fish farm fish (tilapia) is around 18,000 kip to 19,000 kip at the farm and about 21,000-22,000 kip per kg at the market, while Mekong fishes sell for anywhere between 35,000 to 65,000 kip per kg.

However, the country is struggling to breed Mekong fish due to limited funding to expand fingerling hatcheries and improve breeding techniques.

The department, working in cooperation with assisting foreign organisations, will continue to research different species of Mekong fish for breeding expansion, Mr Sommano said.

To promote Mekong fish breeding to supply both domestic consumption and future exports, the government and the livestock and fisheries sector are looking for investors who are willing to put money into the field.

Mr Sommano said that Laos just began researching to breed Mekong fish about 10 years ago, but neighbouring countries started a long time ago, so Lao fisheries staff could gain more experience from overseas experts.

They also need private companies to invest in breeding Mekong fish and producing fish feed but Laos still has few such companies, he explained.

Many species of Mekong fish are prohibited and protected aquatic species but if the country can breed some kinds of them, those fish can be classified separately and utilised in species management.

Each year, Lao fishermen catch tens of tonnes of native Mekong fish, most of which are put up for sale in the local market and some are exported, Mr Sommano said.

Some species are still protected fish as some people still lack the education to understand the Fisheries Law and its importance for natural resources and different ecological systems.

However, residents and travellers now can order Mekong fish on menus in many different restaurants in Vientiane and other provinces, thanks to the fact that people have started breeding them.

To prevent and manage Mekong fish sustainably in the future, the department is working to explain the Fisheries Law and encourage local people to participate in protected area management for food security and environmental protection.

Fish releasing days are important activities to raise public awareness about aquatic and wildlife conservation, preserving nature and biodiversity, and increasing the number of fish available for consumption.

Through promotion and awareness raising activities, Laos will be able to produce enough Mekong fish to satisfy domestic consumption and also exports in future years.

Source: Vientiane Times