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Barramundi (FDA common name 'giant perch') is native to Australia and regions of Southeast Asia. The fish comes from both wild fisheries and aquaculture production. The biggest supply of wild-caught barramundi comes from Indonesia, with fish reaching 5-10lbs. Because barramundi can reach a market size of 1.5- 2lbs. in less than a year, it is well-suited for aquaculture. Farmed barramundi is a cost-effective, sustainable alternative to grouper, snapper, and halibut that is available year round with the leading aquaculture producers based in Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand.
When uncooked, the flesh is pink and turns white when cooked. Barramundi has a sweet, buttery flavor and larger barramundi have a stronger taste profile than smaller fish. The dense meat has large, firm flakes and the fish has a few large bones that are removed easily. The fish's mid-oil content helps to keep the flesh moist while cooking, lending itself to a myriad of preparations. Many times the fish is prepared pan seared with the edible skin left to crisp-up nicely. Barramundi is most commonly available as fresh and frozen in fillets, as well as portions. Buyer Beware: Product quality can vary considerably based on the production system, environmental conditions, and harvest method and fish raised in freshwater can be subject to off-flavor, so discerning buyers may wish to avoid pond-raised product.
Health & Nutrition
- Total Fat3.00g
Recommended Servings per Month
- Kids 6-124+
- Kids 0-54+
A part of the sea perch family, barramundi can grow up to seven feet (200 cm) in length and weigh up to 130 pounds (60kg). They are protandrous hermaphrodites, meaning they begin life as males and later turn into females, usually at three to five years old. They have a distinctly pointed head with a large jaw and rounded tail fin. Freshwater populations have a green-blue upper body with brown to black tail fins. Saltwater barramundi have a silver body with yellow tail fins. Based on aboriginal folktales, some say barramundi has special aphrodisiac qualities and is given the name “passion fish.”
Adults migrate from freshwater to coastal estuaries between October and April to spawn, which happens when tidal activities are strongest. Large females can produce up to 40 million eggs in one season; however, more than 90 percent of larvae and juveniles die within the first couple months. Larvae hatch after 24 hours, relying on nutrients from the yolk sac until they are more developed, about two or three days later. Larvae remain in mangrove and tidal habitats until the springtime. Juveniles migrate into rivers if there is one nearby, where they take three to four years to develop into adults. Adults reach sexual maturity between three and five years old, where they migrate back to the saltwater to spawn. Males turn into females at around six years old and three feet (80 cm) in length, requiring saltwater for the sex change.
Barramundi eat almost anything, including other barramundi, and can consume prey up to 60 percent its own length. Larvae eat plankton. Juveniles eat small fish, aquatic insects, and small crustaceans. Adults prey on fish and crustaceans. Predators of barramundi include large fish, birds, and reptiles such as saltwater crocodiles.
Barramundi are native to the Indo-Pacific and are widely distributed throughout the region – ranging from Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, northward to the coast of China and Japan, and westward to India and various islands in the Indian Ocean. They inhabit estuaries, lower reaches in rivers, and coastal waters. Barramundi prefer slow-moving rivers, creeks, swamps, and estuaries. They are also capable of tolerating a wide-range of salinities and environmental conditions and can often be found around nearshore islands and reefs. Barramundi are catadromous and migrate from fresh water to salt water to spawn and commonly move between the two throughout their life cycle.
From 2008 through 2014, the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre has developed multiple projects for the sustainability and preservation of Australian Barramundi populations. They were in charge of the development of a genetic management and improvement strategy for Australian cultured barramundi, prevention of muddy taints in farmed barramundi and in recirculating freshwater systems, and stamping quality across the Australian farmed barramundi industry to improve the viability, increase growth, and maintain profitability in the Australian populations.
A 2013 study by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and James Cook University looked at the vulnerability of barramundi and the barramundi fishing industry to climate change in Australia. They found that with a 3.6°C increase in ocean temperatures over the next several decades, both wild and aquaculture barramundi populations may become more productive. The distribution of barramundi will expand, providing new opportunities for the fishing and aquaculture industries, and implementation of this knowledge into future management and development planning will ensure quick adaptation of these industries and subpopulations.
Researchers from Charles Darwin University studied the dispersion of barramundi in 2016. The tracking project began in 2015 in conjunction with the university, the Northern Territory’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, the Northern Territory’s Fisheries, and the Yugul Mangi Rangers in the Roger River, tagging hundreds of barramundi with acoustic transmitters in the Roper River. The transmitters provide the researchers knowledge about the ideal water flows and levels barramundi need to breed and survive. They found that some of the fish travel over 100 km over several days, while others (typically adult females) were fairly sessile and remain in freshwater even during spawning.Management:
Barramundi aquaculture is regulated in the US by both individual state governments and the federal government. Numerous federal agencies provide some degree of oversight to aquaculture facilities operating in the US. These include:
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) - which is responsible for coordinating national aquaculture policy and providing industry with research, information, and extension services;
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - which regulates waste discharge from aquaculture facilities;
- The Fisheries and Wildlife Service (FWS) - which regulates the introduction and transport of fish; and
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine is responsible for approving and monitoring the use of drugs and medicated feeds used in the aquaculture industry
US barramundi are farmed in closed recirculating systems - allowing for constant filtration and removal of effluents and solids with low discharge rates. Additionally, US producers have successfully developed and implemented a "Best Management Plan" (BMP). The BMP addresses practices to minimize the amount of discharged pollutants (biological, chemical, medicinal), ensures proper material storage/cleaning, and requires that facilities maintain accurate record keeping. Raising barramundi in closed systems reduces negative interactions with predators and risk of escapement.
Wild fisheries for barramundi exist in Indonesia where they are primarily targeted using by hook and line, longline, and gillnet gears. The Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries is responsible for fisheries management of barramundi within Indonesia's Exclusive Economic Zone - with local and regional governments having roles in administering areas within 12 nautical miles offshore. Local and regional governments are also responsible for conservation and resource utilization. Management objectives for Indonesia's fisheries are set at 80 percent Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY); however, the specific application of this to the barramundi fisheries is unknown. Management of the barramundi fishery in Indonesia is severely constrained by a lack of resources and information and as such, is considered to be ineffective. Currently there are no bycatch limits in place and no observer coverage exists in the fishery. Recent landings data is scarce and enforcement of fishery regulations is compromised by a lack of resource availability.
A series of filters and pumps treat water in the recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) used to farm barramundi, minimizing environmental impacts. Many RAS facilities either utilize previously existing buildings or are built on previously converted land which results in no further habitat conversion or loss of habitat functionality. According to Seafood Watch’s 2020 recirculating aquaculture systems report, RAS operations are considered to have relatively small physical footprints due to intensive production volumes. Floating net pens like the ones used to farm barramundi in Vietnam have little direct habitat impacts, according to Seafood Watch, but discharges can affect water quality and biodiversity.
The recirculating aquaculture systems used to farm barramundi rely on food that contains some animal ingredients, though there are ongoing improvements in aquaculture feeds and their efficiency. Seafood Watch gave this farming type a yellow score for feed in its most recent RAS report, noting that it does vary by species. According to its 2014 report, Seafood Watch notes that net pens used to farm barramundi in Vietnam pose a moderate conservation concern as there is moderate use of wild fish in feed, with a protein loss of 34%. The feed footprint is moderate as well and is estimated at about 11 hectares/ton.
Disease, Pathogen and Parasite Interaction
If they are in a stressed environment, (i.e.extreme temperatures, poor handling, low dissolved oxygen, poor nutrition), Barramundi can experience bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic diseases. But according to Seafood Watch’s 2014 report on net pen farmed barramundi in Vietnam, operational data has shown a low incidence of diseases. The risk of disease amplification is low as well. Although diseases can occur in recirculating aquaculture systems, Seafood Watch reported little risk of transferring these diseases to wild fish as a result of the limited volumes of water discharged, and the ability to treat or control those discharges.
Escapes and Introduced Species
Escapes from recirculating aquaculture systems are highly unlikely given how many screens and filters the fish would have to pass through first, and the fact that they’re land-based also minimizes survival outside the building. Seafood Watch gives this farming type a green score for escapes. Net pen systems have an inherently moderate to high risk of escapes. The potential risk is mitigated in Vietnam through the use of tanks during certain production stages. According to Seafood Watch, there is a history of escape-free production and a low invasiveness score due to the use of local broodstock.
Recirculating aquaculture systems often use a variety of treatment systems for discharged effluent, Seafood Watch reported in 2020. RAS operations that capture solids and have waste treatment systems in place are not considered to cause or contribute to cumulative ecological impacts at a waterbody/regional scale while those that don’t can potentially have impacts on that scale. Net pen operations in Vietnam actively monitor potential impacts and, according to Seafood Watch, major impacts from effluents beyond the farm sites are considered unlikely to happen. Seafood Watch did note that as more data became available, this criterion should continue to be monitored carefully.
Source of Stock
Barramundi are hardy, fast-growing, and have a high reproductive rate, making them ideal for aquaculture. In Vietnam, net pen farms culture native species of barramundi, using domesticated broodstock that have low escape numbers. Fingerlings are also hatchery-raised. Seafood Watch also noted in its report that any future collections of wild brood fish would occur at levels that would not impact wild populations. Most recirculating aquaculture systems around the world rely on hatchery-reared broodstock instead of wild-caught fish, resulting in a green score for barramundi.
|Origin||Harvest Method||Sustainability Ratings|
|Indonesia||Hook and Line|
|Unassessed Origin||Unassessed Farming Methods|
|Unassessed Origin||Unassessed Fishing Methods|
|Vietnam||Marine Net Pen|
|Worldwide||RAS - recirculating aquaculture systems (without wastewater treatment)|
|Worldwide||RAS - recirculating aquaculture systems (with wastewater treatment)|
|Allseas Fisheries Corp.||Canada||Ontario|
|Australis Aquaculture||United States||Massachusetts|
|Catanese Classic Seafood||United States||Ohio|
|Great Falls Aquaculture||United States||Massachusetts|
|Intercity Packers Meat & Seafood||Canada||British Columbia|
|Lee Fish USA||United States||California|
|Lusamerica Foods, Inc.||United States||California|
|Norpac Fisheries Export||United States||Hawaii|
|OM Seafood Company||United States||Oregon|
|Pacific Harvest Seafoods||United States||California|
|Profish Ltd.||United States||District of Columbia|
|Sammy's Seafood Inc||United States||Florida|
|Samuels & Son Seafood Company, Inc.||United States||Pennsylvania|
|Santa Monica Seafood, Inc.||United States||California|
|Sarasota Seafood Company||United States||Florida|
|Seattle Fish Company||United States||Colorado|
|Seattle Fish Company - Kansas City||United States||Missouri|
|The Fish Guys Inc.||United States||Minnesota|
|Wixter Market||United States||Illinois|
- Environmental Defense Fund
- NOAA Fisheries
- Seafood Watch Program