Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Make a Living through Fish Farming

Fish are popular sources of protein and white-meat in Lebanon and many parts of the Mediterranean area.
However, the gap between supply and demand for fish is widening. Almost all natural fish stocks in the region, marine and freshwater, as elsewhere in the world have been over-exploited and pollution discontinue the progress of fish to reestablish its normal subsistence, yet human populations and demand continue to increase.
Fish farming is an ancient practice that can provide many profitable opportunities today. The raising and selling of fish on commercial basis has proven to be economically successful throughout the world. Consumption of fish products is increasing dramatically and now averages about 17 kg/person/year in the world (FAO).
Fish are excellent animals to rear. They can convert feed into body tissue more efficiently than most farm animals, transforming about 70 percent of their feed into flesh. Fish also have excellent dress-out qualities, providing a marketable product with a greater proportion of edible lean tissue than most livestock.
Fish farming is like most other types of farming, a risky business that requires special knowledge, skills, and careful considerations. Some of the most important factors to consider in determining whether you should begin a fish farming business are listed below.

Answering yes to all or most questions does not insure success. Similarly, answering no to all or most questions does not guarantee failure. Individuals with little or no experience in fish farming and few resources available can become successful fish farmers, but they should start small and expand slowly, and be willing to invest money, time and effort.

Answer to yourself with Yes or No

1. Do you have sufficient financial resources available?
2. Do you own suitable land with a good source of high-quality water?
3. Do you own enough land and water necessary for a profitable venture?
4. Is there a high demand and sufficient market for your product?
5. Is expected profit from fish farming greater than other land uses?
6. Can you really devote the money, time, and labor necessary?
7. Do you know the costs involved with the following items:

Capital Costs
Land & buildings
Building ponds/raceways
Tanks & aerators
Plumbing & pipes
Water quality testing equipments

Operating Costs
Purchasing eggs/fingerlings
Fish feed
Electricity & fuel
Labor & maintenance

l. Is there an established market for your fish?
2. Is the market demand sufficient year-round?
3. Do you have an alternative marketing strategy to rely on?

l. Do you have a continuous source of clean, high-quality water? (Well, river or sea)
2. Does your soil have enough clay content to hold water? (For ponds system)
3. Is the water temperature optimal for the fish species reared?
4. Do you have space sufficient to build enough ponds, raceways and buildings?
5. Do you have good and easy access for treating, feeding and harvesting?
6. Is your residence near enough for direct observation and security?

l. Have you had your water tested (chemical and bacteriological)?
2. Do you have a reliable source of fingerlings or eggs at affordable prices?
3. Do you have a reliable source of feed at reasonable cost?
4. Do you have dependable labor available at affordable wages?
5. How long is your growing season (days/year)?
6. What's your required production capacity (Tonnes/year)?
7. What's the best fish species for you to grow (Freshwater or marine)?
8. Are you aware of fish reproductive biology and nutritional needs?

l. Are you aware of the Lebanese laws about fish farming?
2. Do you know where to apply for the necessary permits and licenses?

Risk Assessment
1. Can you conduct water quality tests?
2. Is fish-disease diagnostic-help readily available?
3. Do you know about off-flavor and its causes?
4. Is pesticide, metal, or oil contamination possible?
5. Can you deal with poachers, vandal and predation?
6. Do you know where to go for information and help?

Fish species recommendations
Saltwater finfish:

Gilthead Sea Bream (Ajaj)

European Sea Bass (Bra'a)

Meagre (Miskar)

These species are successfully cultured in some parts of the world and find remarkable command in Lebanon as well as the international markets.

Freshwater finfish:

 Rainbow trout (Truit Arc-en-Ciel)
Tilapia (Boulty)
Barramundi (For export)

The three fish have limited market demand locally but have a very strong international prerequisite.

Fish market in Lebanon is famished for locally fresh-farmed fish, new frontiers require pioneers.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fish mislabeling and information deficiency in Lebanon (imposter fish)

An American Associate Editor on YumSugar.com, Susannah Chen wrote: “Don’t think that counterfeit bags and cosmetics are the only phony items on the market. Recent evidence suggests that the fake fish trade is rampant, too.
Studies and survey documents from private national universities to state regulation agencies show escolar masking as white tuna, tilapia sold as red snapper, and emperor fillets marketed as grouper in staggering numbers, by both food distributors and dining establishments.
Suppose that steamed red snapper sashimi you're reveling over is merely your garden-variety tilapia. Would you want to know the truth about its mislabeling — or, since you're enjoying it anyway, would you prefer to turn a blind eye?”

Lebanon imports 75% of its seafood, some are recognizable by regular consumer such as gilthead seabream and European seabass (Ajaj and Bra’a).
The big question is, does a related Lebanese authority enforce enough recognition and identifying measures? What about fillets and value added products such as finger-fish or fish-nuggets, these are concealed items and needs professional scrutinizing for a correct designation.
Consumers would definitely want to know the fish they are eating, mislabeling in Lebanon is mainly done in fish fillets, and therefore I will concentrate on this issue.    
Sales number one in the Lebanese fish fillets market, which is sold in an appealing package with opaque white flesh and mostly labeled as “WHITE FISH FILLETS” and “HAMOUR FILLETS” on the front side of those “buy-me” packages.
Have you ever wondered why those fillets are odorless with a neutral taste? And how come they are fiercely white?

The answer is simple, BLEACHING, yes those fish fillets are bleached with “Food Grade Bleacher CHLORINE_DIOXIDE”, yes it is an approved method, but was it mentioned on the package? This is why it is flawlessly white, this why it is odorless and this why it is tasteless.
Do those wrappings state the common name of the fish? Some does, on the back, in small letters, as if to hide it and the statement bare the following fact:
BASA?  PANGASIUS? Yes, The basa fish, Pangasius bocourti, it is a type of catfish. Basa are native to the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam and Chao Phraya basin in Thailand. Also pangasius Pangasius hypophthalmus (Iridescent shark) and Pangasius pangasius (Yellowtail catfish).
I wonder how many Lebanese would enjoy this fish as a feast in the form of whole round.

Many Lebanese know this fish when they have bought “freshwater sharks” for their aquariums.

We need powerful regulations to oblige importing companies to reveal clearly the type of the fish (as well as a picture) on the front side of package and to state processing techniques including the existence of the bleaching action and then allow the customer to decide whether to purchase or not.
Lebanese are hard to please
You Lebanese people should alter that old misconception about the color of the fish meat, white does not mean delicious or healthy nor has higher nutritional benefits. Most Lebanese  find grouper irresistible, LOUKKOZ, no? Well look at how Loukkoz fillet appears when fresh.
Grouper fillet

Watch this video carefully.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Aquaculture in Lebanon

Freshwater aquaculture has been practiced since the 1930’s. More than 90 percent of aquaculture production in Lebanon is rainbow trout, Onchorhyncus mykiss. They are grown in semi-intensive growing systems which were introduced in 1958. There are currently about 150 fish farms or holdings.
Tilapia farming was recently timidly tried out through several private initiatives.
Aquaculture is mainly practiced in the following regions of the country: Bekaa, Akkar district of Northern Lebanon and some small operations in South Lebanon.

In 1960 the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) established the Anjar Center for Aquaculture in the Bekaa area to develop the sector and a new center was established in Hermel for trout production. The Center started as a hatchery service producing rainbow trout fingerlings and distributing them free of charge to growers to encourage intensive and semi intensive growing of the species.

There is no marine aquaculture except for one new farm for a penaeid shrimp Penaeus vannamei, known as “white shrimp”. Production has emerged recently in the Akkar area of northern Lebanon.

According to the MOA's data aquaculture production in 2003 was 600 tonnes, the 2010 estimation is 1 100 tonnes. In 2003 the total amount of imported fish, whether live, fresh or frozen (including crustaceans and molluscs) amounted to about 12 000 tonnes at an approximate value of USD 30 million. In 2009 total amount of imported fish, fresh and frozen (including crustaceans) amounted to about 45 000 tonnes at an approximate value of USD 203 millions. This indicates that there are potentials for development in the aquaculture sector. (FAO)
Total fish production (capture and aquaculture) accounts for less than 25 percent of local consumption. Aquaculture contributes about 10 percent of local production and 3 percent of local fish consumption.
The oldest farm was established in 1965 in the Hermel area which was for trout. However, most of the farms (about 41 percent) were established during the years 1985 - 1990, mainly in the Anjar and Hermel areas and a few in Zahle and Kareoun. About 11 percent were established in the period 1991-1994 and 2 percent followed in the period 1995-1997. After 1997 another 90 farms were established. The industry now accounts for 150 farms distributed mainly in the Bekaa area along the river Assi with some smaller ones in various locations. However, this was not accompanied by the development of support infrastructure such as feed mills and breeding operations, fertilized eggs are imported from Europe.
All farms are family owned businesses. Most of the farmers own their raceways or ponds. Most producers have an intermediate level of education and hire full time labors to take care of daily farming activities on the farm.

The main growers of Bekaa are organized into four main groups: the Aquaculture and Fish Marketing Cooperative of Oyoun Urgush in Baalbeck, Aquaculture and Fish Marketing Cooperative of Anjar, and two Aquaculture and Fish Marketing cooperatives of the Assi Basin in Hermel.
There are also restaurant owners (about 30) who invest in their aquaculture enterprise and depend on it for their living.

The production system is the semi-intensive. The average annual production of trout is around 1 100 tonnes (MOA). This is produced by 150 farms, 80 percent of which are in Hermel-North Bekaa, at a total value of USD 3.7 million.

The directorate of rural development and national resources under the MOA is responsible for aquaculture development.

Various private bodies carry out researches. However, research in this sector is still extremely limited and not coordinated.
Trends, issues and development

Aquaculture production and productivity in Lebanon can be boosted in relation to water availability and quality and the favourable growing conditions. Apart from Morocco, Lebanon is the only Arab country growing trout.

Farming practices and technologies used need to be enhanced. Investments are needed to develop the sector along with the support infrastructure.
Research is needed to improve feed conversion, health management and growing techniques for different species.

Target/proposed species are:
  • European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax)
  • Gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata)
  • Yellowtail kingfish (Seriola spp)
  • Common dentex (Dentex dentex)
  • Grouper (Epinephelus spp)
  • Rabbitfish (Siganus spp).
  • Green tiger prawn (Penaeus semisulcatus).
  • Kuruma prawn (Penaeus japonicus)
  • Barramundi (Lates Calcarifer)
  • Trout (Salmo spp).
  • Tilapia (Oreochromis spp).
Legislation and regulations relating to aquaculture production, establishment of enterprises and effects on the environment need to be developed and enforced. Comprehensive and accurate statistics concerning the sector are needed.

Lack of funds and human resources are the two factors limiting development of the sector.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


As this is my first post, I would like to put aquaculture in plain words.

Aquaculture, also known as aqua-farming, is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants. Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions, and can be contrasted with commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of wild fish; Mariculture refers to aquaculture practiced in marine environments.

European sea bass, sea bream, trout, yellowtail kingfish, tilapia, barramundi, grouper, shrimp, oysters, clams and many other aquatic species farming has turned into the new "cash crops" since the 1990’s.

Growing public demand for a healthy tasty and affordable food is stimulating the "boom" in this industry. The decline in wild fish populations as a result of overharvest and water pollution has promoted the culture of farm-fresh fish that are grown in contaminant-free waters in a variety of water bodies systems.

Aquaculture continues to be the fastest growing animal food-producing sector and to outpace population growth. World Fish consumption per capita increased from 0.7 kg in 1970, 7.8 kg in 2006 to 17 kg in 2010 (FAO).

Accounting for almost 55 percent of the world’s food fish production, Aquaculture is set to overtake capture fisheries as a source of food fish. From a production of less than 1 million tonnes per year in the early 1950s, production in 2008 was reported to be 59.25 million tonnes with a value of US$89.75 billion, representing an annual growth rate of nearly 7 percent.