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- Not to be confused with the Barramundi cod or the Australian members of the genus Scleropages (which sometimes are referred to as barramundis).
The barramundi (Lates calcarifer), also known as Asian seabass, is a species of catadromous fish in family Latidae of order Perciformes. The native species is widely distributed in the Indo-West Pacific region from the Persian Gulf, through Southeast Asia to Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia. Known in Thai language as pla kapong (Thai: ปลากะพง), it is very popular in Thai cuisine. It is known as koduva in the Tamil language, kalaanji in Malayalam language, pandugappa in the Telugu language in India, bhetki in the Bengali language in eastern India and Chonak in the Konkani language in Goa in western India.
Origin of name
Barramundi is a loanword from an Australian Aboriginal language of the Rockhampton area in Queensland[dead link] meaning "large-scaled river fish". Originally, the name barramundi referred to saratoga and Gulf saratoga.
However, the name was appropriated for marketing reasons during the 1980s, a decision which has aided in raising the profile of this fish significantly. L. calcarifer is broadly referred to as Asian seabass by the international scientific community, but is also known as giant perch, giant seaperch, Australian seabass, and by a variety of names in other languages, such as ikan siakap in Malay, ikan kakap putih in Indonesian, apahap in Tagalog (Philippines), and pla kapong in Thailand.
This species has an elongated body form with a large, slightly oblique mouth and an upper jaw extending behind the eye. The lower edge of the preoperculum is serrated with a strong spine at its angle; the operculum has a small spine and a serrated flap above the origin of the lateral line. Its scales are ctenoid. In cross section, the fish is compressed and the dorsal head profile clearly concave. The single dorsal and ventral fins have spines and soft rays; the paired pectoral and pelvic fins have soft rays only; and the caudal fin has soft rays and is truncate and rounded. Barramundi are salt and freshwater sportfish, targeted by many. They have large, silver scales, which may become darker or lighter, depending on their environments. Their bodies can reach up to 1.8 m (5.91 ft) long, though evidence of them being caught at this size is scarce.
Barramundi are demersal, inhabiting coastal waters, estuaries, lagoons and rivers; they are found in clear to turbid water, usually within a temperature range of 26−30°C. This species does not undertake extensive migrations within or between river systems, which has presumably influenced establishment of genetically distinct stocks in Northern Australia.
The barramundi feeds on crustaceans, molluscs, and smaller fish (including its own species); juveniles feed on zooplankton. The barramundi is euryhaline, but stenothermal. It inhabits rivers and descends to estuaries and tidal flats to spawn. In areas remote from freshwater, purely marine populations may become established.
At the start of the monsoon, males migrate downriver to meet females, which lay very large numbers of eggs (several millions each). The adults do not guard the eggs or the fry, which require brackish water to develop.
The species is sequentially hermaphroditic, with most individuals maturing as males and becoming female after at least one spawning season; most of the larger specimens are therefore female. Fish held in captivity sometimes demonstrate features atypical of fish in the wild: they change sex at a smaller size, exhibit a higher proportion of protogyny and some males do not undergo sexual inversion.
Highly prized by anglers for their good fighting ability, barramundi are reputed to be good at avoiding fixed nets and are best caught on lines and with fishing lures. In Australia, the barramundi is used to stock freshwater reservoirs for recreational fishing.
These "impoundment barramundi", as they are known by anglers, have grown in popularity as a "catch and release" fish. Popular stocked barramundi impoundments include Lake Tinaroo near Cairns in the Atherton Tablelands, Peter Faust Dam near the Whitsundays, Teemburra Dam near Mackay, Lake Moondarra near Mount Isa, Lake Awoonga near Gladstone, and Lake Monduran south of Lake Awoonga.
Fishing techniques revolve mainly around casting and retrieving all types of lures, including soft- and hard-bodied lures. Trolling is also a favored and productive technique for impoundment barramundi.
Impoundment barramundi are also a popular target with surface lures, as they are known to eat all types of foods from the surface of the water, including frogs, injured baitfish, and even baby swans and other birds.
The distinct 'boof' sound which barramundi make when surface feeding can easily be recognised and echo up to long distances at quiet times such as still nights.
Many anglers travel to Queenslands barramundi impoundments to catch the elusive 'metery', a barramundi measuring in excess of a metre and weighing somewhere between 10 and 25 kg, depending on the extreme growth rate these "dam locked" fish can achieve.
When hooked on a lure, the barramundi will often clear itself from the water several times throughout the battle and make long, powerful runs. This makes it a popular target species.
The eating quality of impoundment barramundi is average, with a rating of 5 out of 10.
The flesh of the wild species has a 'fresh' taste due to the barramundi spending all of its life in silty, freshwater environments. Although there are recipes which claim to remove or mask the muddy taste, this is difficult in practice. Smoking the fish will bring best results.
The record for the largest line-caught barramundi is 44.6 kg at Lake Monduran, QLD, (December 2010); others have been caught larger, but a growing trend for catch and release fishing has sustained this record. It is a quest for many impoundment anglers to catch a 100-pounder, which to date has never been achieved.
The saltwater barramundi, have a much better taste, as the fish are cleaner. Many anglers travel to the northern parts of Australia to catch Australia's iconic sportfish.
Barramundi can be caught year round with a preferance to warmer times of the year.
Commercial fishing and aquaculture
The fish is of large commercial importance; it is fished internationally and raised in aquaculture in Australia, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Israel, Thailand, the United States and Poland. The Australian barramundi industry is relatively established, with an annual production of more than 4000 tons. In the broader Southeast Asian region, production is estimated to exceed 30,000 tons. By contrast, the US industry produces about 800 tons a year from a single facility. Barramundi under culture will commonly grow from a hatchery juvenile, between 50 and 100 mm in length, to a table size of 400-600 g within 12 months and to 3.0 kg within 18–24 months.
Smaller specimens are a popular aquarium fish, and can be very entertaining, especially at feeding time. However, they grow quickly, so they are recommended to be kept in setups of 500 litres or larger. In aquaria, they become quite tame and can be hand fed; they are not aggressive, but their feeding reflex is violent and sudden, so they can not be kept with any tank mates small enough to be swallowed.
Barramundi have a mild flavor and a white, flaky flesh, with varying amount of body fat.
In Australia, barramundi is an iconic table fish revered as a quintessential Australian brand. Its name is, after all, derived from an Australian Aboriginal name. However, such is the demand for the fish that a substantial amount of barramundi consumed in Australia is actually imported. This has placed significant economic pressure on Australian producers, both fishers and farmers, whose costs are significantly greater due to remoteness of many of the farming and fishing sites as well as stringent environmental and food safety standards placed on them by government. While country of origin labeling has given consumers greater certainty over the origins of their barramundi at the retail level, there is no requirement for the food service and restaurant trades to label the origins of their barramundi.
Nile perch—a similar fish found in the Afrotropic ecozone, or sub-Saharan Africa—is often mislabeled as barramundi. It does not fall under the recommendation for US-farmed barramundi. The species was originally assigned to genus Holocentrus, in the beryciform family Holocentridae.
Barramundi from local fish farms are known as pla kapong (Thai: ปลากระพง, commonly pronounced pla kapong) in Thailand. Since its introduction, it has become one of the most popular fishes in Thai cuisine. It is often eaten steamed with lime and garlic, as well as deep-fried or stir-fried with lemongrass, among a variety of many other ways. Pla kapong can be seen in aquaria in many restaurants in Thailand, where sometimes this fish is wrongly labeled as "snapper" or "sea bass" in menus. Traditionally, Lutjanidae snappers were known as pla kapong before the introduction of barramundi in Thai aquaculture, but presently snapper is rarely served in restaurants in the main cities and in interior Thailand.
Locally caught chonak (Barramundi) is a favourite food, prepared with either recheado (a Goan red masala, pronounced rey-sha-dh) or coated with suji (semolina) and pan fried. The fish is generally filleted on the diagonal. It is eaten as a snack or as an accompaniment to drinks or the main course. It is one of the more expensive fish available.
- Japanese lates, a very similar species
- Frumkin, Paul (2003). "Barramundi approval rating rise". Food & Beverage Industry. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3190/is_/ai_100572900. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- "Australia's Arrow Fish, Saratoga (The True Barramundi)". Archived from the original on 29 October 2007. http://www.sweetwaterfishing.com.au/AustArrowFish.htm. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
- "FISHERIES MANAGEMENT PAPER No. 127". http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/docs/mp/mp127/fmp127.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
- Fishing in Thailand
- Ruen Urai, Thai cuisine