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.