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Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) Commercial Fishery & Aquaculture
Also known as Sea Bass, Barra, giant perch, giant sea perch, silver barramundi. The name Barramundi came from an Aboriginal word that means ‘large scaled river fish’



Commercial Fishing for Barramundi: 

Chilled Barramundi on Ice

Season
Wild-caught Barramundis are available from February to October, with the main season being February to April.

Size and Weight
Barramundis mature as males after 3 years, measuring up to 60cm in length, then change into females after 5 years. They can reach up to 1.5m and 50kg, although most wild-caught fish weigh less than 6kg. Farmed Barramundis average 400-600g and 30-37cm and are commonly sold as ‘baby’, or ‘plate-sized’, Barramundi. Some Barramundi farmers are now producing larger fish weighing around 3kg, these are flakier and have firmer flesh than ‘baby’ Barramundi.
 

 


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Aquaculture Producers of Barramundi  | Processors of Barramundi  |  Exporters of Barramundi  |  Importers of Barramundi  |
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Aquaculture Producers of Sea Bass  |  Exporters of Sea Bass  |  Importers of Sea Bass  |  Processors of Sea Bass  |  Wholesale Suppliers of Sea Bass  |  Seafood Agents for Sea Bass


small photo of australian barramundi, asian sea bass, sustainable seafood

Farming Barramundi Aquaculture:

Barramundi - Sea Bass - A Sustainable Seafood

 

Barramundi is farmed in all states of Australia except Tasmania. It has an estimated value of production at around $45 million at farm gate. There is every indication the industry will continue to expand, with growth coming from existing farms and new entrants to the industry.


Barramundi Lates calcarifer, occurs throughout the South-East Asian region, including northern Australia. In South-East Asia barramundi is known as Asian sea bass and a successful farming industry, particularly in Thailand, has been established for many years. In the wild, they can grow to 180 cm total length (up to 60 kg) but farmed fish are usually sold at plate size (500 g) or around 3 kg (for filleting).

Australian barramundi is farmed in diverse production systems. The majority of production comes from outdoor fresh or salt water pond operations and sea cages, in North Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The remainder of production comes from recirculation systems using thermal spring water or fresh water. Recirculation systems are operated mainly in South-East Queensland and southern states. The size of production units varies greatly from boutique operations, usually based on recirculation systems, to large-scale pond or cage systems.

Barramundi was traditionally produced as plate fish for the restaurant trade, but the majority is now being sold as whole fish or fillets, with a new market developing around direct sales to the major suppliers.


Research into the culture of barramundi began in Australia in 1984 with studies carried out by the Queensland Government. The work was initially aimed at adapting culture techniques developed in Thailand to Australian conditions. Following the evident success of preliminary research, the first commercial barramundi hatchery and farm was started in 1986 in Mourilyan Harbour, North Queensland (Schipp, 1996).

There are three culture systems currently used in Australia for producing barramundi fingerlings:

1.  clear-water tank culture (considered intensive larval rearing);
2.  green-water tank culture (semi-intensive larval rearing); and
3.  pond culture (extensive larval rearing).

For more information on these 3 culture systems, see here

Barramundi are currently being farmed in Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia. Queensland's barramundi industry has experienced the greatest expansion over recent years with commercial aquaculture production of plate-size fish growing from zero in 1986 to 349.4 tonnes (t) in 1996-97, worth $3.44 million (Lobegeiger et al., 1998). Estimated national production in 1995-96 was 529 tonnes, worth $5.83 million (Brown et al., 1997).

Barramundi move between fresh and salt water during various stages of their life cycle. Mature barramundi live in estuaries and associated coastal areas or in the lower reaches of rivers. Larvae and young juveniles inhabit seasonal brackish-water swamps associated with estuaries and older juveniles are found in the upper reaches of rivers (Schipp, 1996).

A total of 16 genetically distinct stocks of barramundi in various major river systems throughout Australia have been identified, although populations in WA have not been studied exhaustively (Makaira 1999). This has caused problems in developing barramundi aquaculture, particularly in WA, due to the variation in maturation and spawning stimuli between these genetically discrete populations.

As barramundi farming is well established in the Eastern States, the production phases and options for farming are well known. The flow chart on the preceding pages summarise these phases which are discussed in detail within this document. Initial attempts to induce spawning with WA-caught barramundi using Eastern States techniques were unsuccessful (Lawrence, 1995). It appears that current Australian spawning induction methods will require further modification before WA barramundi can be induced to spawn in a captive environment. The following description of spawning techniques are therefore based on techniques currently used by farmers in other States.

Hatchery production of barramundi commences with the spawning of captive breeding fish or 'broodstock' and is completed when the small fish or 'fingerlings' are 20 to 25mm long (Schipp, 1996). In preparation for examination of the spawning condition of the fish, the broodstock must first be caught and anaesthetised. Once anaesthetised, barramundi broodstock are cannulated to assess gonadal development (using a piece of silicon tubing, a small sample of eggs or sperm (milt) are removed from gonads and examined microscopically). Only animals with sufficient egg and sperm development are capable of being stimulated to complete their gonadal development and spawn. Suitable female fish should have a majority of tertiary yolk eggs with diameters of >0.4mm (400 microns), while male fish should produce at least a bead of milt when gently test stripped or have a 5mm milt plug in the catheter tube.

Captive barramundi broodstock that are held in recirculating systems (20 to 80t) and conditioned to a constant environment of salinity 30 to 36ppt, temperature 28o to 29oC and summer photoperiod (13 hour day length) are able to be induced to spawn using hormones year round (Garrett & O'Brien, 1994). For detailed instructions on the preparation and administration of hormones for barramundi broodstock please refer to Schipp (1996). Generally, a commercial barramundi hatchery holds between 25 and 70 brood fish, ranging in size from 3 to 20kg. Excess broodstock are preferred to ensure egg supply but the actual number required depends on the performance of the fish (i.e. fecundity, ease of spawning, regularity of spawning etc.), with the cost of holding broodstock requiring consideration.

Maintenance of genetic diversity in farmed populations is facilitated by use of large numbers of broodstock.

Eastern States barramundi spawn naturally in tanks following injection of luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogue (LHRH-a) at 19 to 27 micrograms per kilogram (µg/kg) of body weight. Each female releases 3 to 6 million eggs and the males immediately 'pirouette' around the females' tail, releasing their sperm (Figure 2). Males do not require hormonal stimulation as they receive visual cues from the female to release sperm (Garrett & O'Brien, 1994).

Diet for Farm Reared Barramundi:

In Australia, farmed barramundi are reared on dry, pelleted diets, in contrast to South-East Asia where they are usually reared on 'trash' fish or in association with a foraging species such as Tilapia spp (Barlow et al., 1996. Weaning fry from live feed to dry crumbles can be commenced with fry as small as 10 mm TL, but much better survival and quicker adaptation onto the dry diets is obtained if weaning is delayed until the fry are at least 15 to 20 mm TL (Barlow et al., 1996).

Barramundi are reared on progressively larger pellets as they grow from fingerling to market size. Most farmers prefer to use semi-floating extruded pellets as they float about 20cm from the water surface. Barramundi are reluctant to feed from the water surface or the pond or tank bottom. Diets produced by Australian fish feed manufacturers give good food conversion ratios (FCR) of 1.6 to 1.8:1 under commercial farm conditions (Barlow et al., 1996).

Recent research has shown use of high protein (> 55%) and high energy (> 18% fat) diets for juvenile and plate-sized barramundi can greatly improve growth, FCR (< 1.0 in experimental systems) and profitability of barramundi farming. Formulated feeds need to be stored correctly to avoid loss of nutrients, this is particularly important in the tropics where fats will quickly go rancid and vitamins break down if not stored in an air-conditioned room. Pelleted feed should not be stored for extended periods (Schipp, 1996).


See Also: 
Information on Barramundi & Sea Bass

Angling & Fishing for Barramundi

Commercial Fishing for Barramundi & Aquaculture Production

Cooking Barramundi & Sea Bass

More Links & Resources on Barramundi & Sea Bass

 

 


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