Pangasius – Pangasianodon hypophthalmus

Pangasius are primarily cultured in high density ponds and the Mekong delta in Vietnam is at the centre of current production. Pangasius has become a popular aquaculture species across the Asia-Pacific region.

Pangasius production has grown rapidly since the mid-2000s, and is likely to develop further. Global production in 2016 was almost 2.5 million tonnes.


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Profile last updated: 27th Nov 2019

Sources, Quantities and Cultivation Methods

Source and Quantities
There are some 28 species within the family Pangasiidae1. Under UK fish labelling regulations2 any species of this family can be called pangasius, or panga(s), basa or river cobbler, and any of these names can be used along with the word ‘catfish’. Other names include swai, tra, cream dory, silver striped catfish, sutchi catfish and Vietnamese catfish. Pangasius were once an important freshwater fishery in the Mekong River3 but this has declined and wild populations are classified as endangered4.

Pangasius farming was traditionally small-scale and based on the capture of wild juveniles5. The development of artificial propagation techniques in the mid 1990’s led to the development of commercial hatcheries6, 7. Hatcheries greatly reduced the demand on wild seed and led to a rapid expansion of floating net-pen culture in Mekong Delta waterways. Net-pen farming has since declined and pangasius are now primarily reared in ponds8.

Pangasianodon hypophthalmus dominates pangasius farming and this is the species imported into Europe and the UK9, 10.

By 2012 pangasius production had increased to 2.4 million tonnes and has since remained relatively stable11. Vietnam continues to be at the centre of production. In Vietnam there are approximately 6,000 hectares of ponds producing 1.19 million tonnes of pangasius in 201612, with the majority of production coming from larger, integrated farms10, 13.

Global pangasius production in 2016 was some 2.7 million tonnes (including India)12, 14, with a value over US$3.8 billion (excluding India)12. As well as Vietnam, India14, 15, Bangladesh16 and Indonesia are main producers as the map shows. China and the Philippines also report production, as do countries outside the Asia-Pacific region; Caribbean nations such as Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic culture small volumes17, 18, 19.

Domestic Market Information20, 21
From 2008 to 2018 pangasius has been the fastest growing species (from a small base) in Great British retail (i.e. in England, Scotland and Wales); growing in value and volume by 1,138% and 1,075% respectively from a base of £4.1 million and 504 tonnes in 2008. Strong growth used to be driven by a relatively low average price, but recent increases have seen the average price matching that of cod.

In 2018, UK pangasius retail sales were worth £62.9 million (+6.9% compared to the previous year) with a volume of 8,123 tonnes (-2.2%), average price £7.75 per kg; ranking 10th by value (in the 52 weeks to 16/06/2018 (including discounters).

In 2018, the UK imported 12,970 tonnes of pangasius.

Note: the difference between the volume of pangasius sold in UK retail and that which is imported is due to its use in the foodservice industry (e.g. restaurants) (no data available) and that which is re-exported.

Production method7
A schematic of modern pangasius production is given opposite.

Pangasius broodstock are induced to spawn via hormonal injections. Larvae hatch after 24 hours, absorb the yolk-sac, and are then stocked in specially prepared ponds to feed on small crustaceans such as moina (a water flea).  They are then fed supplementary feeds such as boiled egg and soya bean for the first two weeks, followed by commercial aquafeeds.

After one month, the fry are transferred to nursery ponds for a further two months. They are then transferred to grow-out ponds at 14-20 g, at stocking densities of 40-60 fish/m2. After a grow-out period of 6-7 months, the fish are harvested by partially draining the pond, netting and transfer to processing factories. Transfer for processing in areas such as the Mekong, is by well-boat (a vessel with wells or tanks for the storage or transport of live fish)5.

  1. Fish Base (http://www.fishbase.org/summary/FamilySummary.php?ID=134)
  2. Defra (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/236702/pb14027-uk-commercial-designation-fish-list.pdf)
  3. Hall, A.S. and Johns, M., 2013. Assessment of the Vulnerability of the Mekong Delta Pangasius Industry to Development and Climate Change in the Lower Mekong Basin. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, January, 2013
  4. IUCN (http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/180689/0)
  5. FAO (http://www.fao.org/fishery/culturedspecies/Pangasius_hypophthalmus/en)
  6. Sinh, L.X. and Hien, L.L., 2010. Supply and Use of Catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) Seed in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Aquaculture Asia magazine, Vol. XV, No. 1, Jan-Mar, 2010
  7. Cacot, P. et al, 2002. Induced ovulation of Pangasius bocourti (Sauvage, 1880) with a progressive hCG treatment. Aquaculture, Vol. 213, Iss. 1-4, 2002, p199-206 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0044848602000339)
  8. De Silva, S.S. and Phuong, N.T., 2011. Striped Catfish Farming in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam: A Tumultuous Path to Global Success. Reviews in Aquaculture, 3, 2011, p45-73
  9. CBI (https://www.cbi.eu/sites/default/files/market_information/researches/product-factsheet-europe-pangasius-2015.pdf)
  10. CBI (https://www.cbi.eu/sites/default/files/market_information/researches/product-factsheet-pangasius-uk-fish-seafood-2014.pdf)
  11. GOAL (https://www.aquaculturealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/goal13-tveteras.pdf)
  12. FAO FishStatJ (http://www.fao.org/fishery/statistics/software/fishstatj/en)
  13. Seafood TIP (http://www.seafood-tip.com/sourcing-intelligence/countries/vietnam/pangasius/)
  14. Undercurrent News (https://www.undercurrentnews.com/2016/09/19/goal-2016-blog-from-guangzhou/)
  15. Singh, A.K. and Lakra, W.S., 2012. Culture of Pangasianodon hypophthalmus into India: Impacts and Present Scenario. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 2012, 15 (1) p19-26 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/224834222_Culture_of_Pangasianodon_hypophthalmus_into_India_Impacts_and_Present_Scenario)
  16. Ali, H. et al, 2013. Striped catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus, Sauvage, 1878) aquaculture in Bangladesh: an overview. Aquaculture Research, 2013, 44, p950-965 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2109.2012.03101.x/abstract)
  17. FAO pers. comm., 2017
  18. The Aquaculturists (http://theaquaculturists.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/16062016-larval-culture-of-pangasius-in.html)
  19. Caymen iNews (http://www.ieyenews.com/wordpress/dominican-republic-caribbean-producer-aims-to-make-a-name-for-sutchi/)
  20. AC Nielson (http://www.nielsen.com/uk/en.html)
  21. HMRC (https://www.uktradeinfo.com/tradetools/importersdetails/Pages/ImportersSearch.aspx)

Governance and Outlook

Governance
Governance systems play an important part in ensuring environmental sustainability, and whilst these have evolved rapidly with the growth of the industry, there are differences between regions and countries. Poor governance can result in industry stagnation, the spread of preventable diseases, environmental damage and opposition to aquaculture activities by local communities and groups such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Key governance responsibilities are ensuring environmental assessment and decision making processes are in place for sensitive and coastal ecosystems, which help deliver sustainable aquaculture whilst managing possible adverse impacts. Other regulatory and governance aspects should cover aspects such as water abstraction and discharge, health monitoring, and so forth.

Four principles – accountability, effectiveness and efficiency of governments, equity, and predictability of the rule of law – are necessary for effective aquaculture governance. These principles should guide the administration, legislative and regulatory framework of aquaculture. In addition to governments, other stakeholders such as communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and producers should also be involved in industry governance1.

Pangasius farming is almost exclusively undertaken in developing Asian countries where governance systems have been evolving rapidly and have been influenced by foreign pressures, especially with regard to international food safety and quality standards2, 3, 4.

Asia-Pacific5
Many countries in Asia-Pacific have made efforts to set up policies, administrative, legal and regulatory frameworks to develop and manage aquaculture. Overall, Asia-Pacific regional countries enjoy established strong aquaculture governance structures (policies, institutions, regulations, etc.) in support of sustainable development and management of aquaculture at all levels.

In some of the countries that have made conducive policies, implementation is delayed by the lack of financial and skilled human resources. Policies and regulations may be enacted, but unless there are sufficient government personnel with adequate skills and financial resources to monitor and enforce them, they will remain ineffective. Almost all countries in the region now require licensing to practice aquaculture. All commercial aquaculture establishments must undertake Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) or Initial Environmental Examinations (IEEs) and register with the authorities before starting to farm. As aquaculture governance has improved and production increased in the region, many products have found markets internationally.

Whilst regulations have been created or tightened, the most important development has been the increasing uptake of Best Management Practices (BMPs) and certification schemes. The use of independent third party international certification schemes within pangasius aquaculture has been growing6, 7, 8; seeking to promote and instil responsible aquaculture practices in the industry via individual farm certification.

Vietnam
In Vietnam the Institute of Fisheries Economics and Planning (VIFEP) is responsible for strategic planning for aquaculture, such as the establishment of zones for aquaculture and high-tech processing. Specific plans have been created including: aquaculture development in the Mekong River Delta towards 2020; aquaculture development in Vietnam reservoirs to 2020; and a national plan on development of aquaculture to 2020.

Other recent developments include: a review of the planning of pangasius production and marketing in the Mekong River Delta to 2020; supporting system for decision making for sustainable aquaculture in the Mekong River Delta; and research on the scientific basis of ecological zoning adapting to climate change in aquaculture in the Mekong River Delta9.

Other pangasius producing countries have similar governance in place, whilst some are still evolving.

Outlook
Asia-Pacific5
Several strong inter-governmental agencies have been established in support of general aquaculture development in Asia-Pacific. Dedicated international and regional agencies provide technical and financial assistance for the development and better management of the aquaculture sector in the region. Many countries in Asia-Pacific have also established private or semi-private aquaculture associations and partnerships focussing on overall aquaculture development and/or specific aspects such as trade. Many bilaterally assisted programmes have also contributed to this endeavour and these efforts are continuing.

Vietnam
Whilst pangasius production appears to have stabilised in the last 4-5 years, the sector is likely to develop further; Vietnam’s annual pangasius target is 1.5-2 million tonnes by 202010. It is probable that there will be further industry consolidation and vertical integration leading to larger, more efficient producers, and a greater adoption of certification schemes11.

NGOs have also contributed; for instance the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership operates Aquaculture Improvement Partnerships (AIPs). The Vietnamese Pangasius AIP aims to reduce or mitigate the potential cumulative impacts of pangasius farming on a zonal level with producers, suppliers and buyers working together to address sustainability issues12.

The Vietnamese government, Vietnam Fisheries Society (VINAFIS) and the Vietnam Association of Exporters and Processors (VASEP)13 assisted by other bodies such as Vietnam Pangasius Association (VPA)14 committed to certify 100% of farmed pangasius by 2015, with at least 50% under ASC15.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Developments (MARD)16 has also developed ‘VietG.A.P’ which is based on many of the GlobalG.A.P. aquaculture standard’s criteria. VietG.A.P is intended to raise standards in Vietnamese aquaculture and be a stepping-stone to attain international certification. MARD stated that from 2015 it was obligatory to apply the VietG.A.P standard in pangasius farming. It intends to have 80% of intensive/semi-intensive Vietnamese aquaculture certified VietG.A.P by 202017.

  1. FAO (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7797e.pdf)
  2. Belton, B. et al, 2011. Certifying catfish in Vietnam and Bangladesh: Who will make the grade and will it matter? Food Policy 36 (2011) 289–299 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227418970_Certifying_catfish_in_Vietnam_and_Bangladesh_Who_will_make_the_grade_and_will_it_matter)
  3. CIRAD (http://video.cirad.fr/videos/2015_05_uved_aquaculture/itw_corum_sb_2_sd.mp4)
  4. Bush S.R. and Duijf, M., 2011. Searching for (un)sustainability in pangasius aquaculture: A political economy of quality in European retail. Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University, The Netherlands. Geoforum 42 (2011) p185–196 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/50316545_Searching_for_un_sustainabilty_in_pangasius_aquaculture_A_political_economy_of_quality_in_European_retail0
  5. FAO (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6875e.pdf)
  6. ASC (http://www.asc-aqua.org/)
  7. GAA (http://www.gaalliance.org/)
  8. GG (http://www.globalgap.org/uk_en/)
  9. Vietnam Institute of Fisheries Economics and Planning (VIFEP) – official brochure, 2016
  10. VASEP (http://www.vasep.com.vn/Uploads/image/Nguyen-Thi-Van-Ha/file/Vietnam%20Pangasius%202011.pdf)
  11. Trifković, N., 2014. Certified standards and vertical coordination in aquaculture: The case of pangasius from Vietnam. Aquaculture 433 (2014) p235–246 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263856491_Certified_standards_and_vertical_coordination_in_aquaculture_The_case_of_Pangasius_from_Vietnam)
  12. SFP (https://www.sustainablefish.org/)
  13. VASEP (http://www.seafood.vasep.com.vn/)
  14. VPA (http://vnpangasius.com/en)
  15. WWF (http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/farmed_pangasius_factsheet.pdf)
  16. MARD (http://www.mard.gov.vn/en/Pages/default.aspx)
  17. Global GAP (http://www.globalgap.org/es/news/Collaboration-for-Transparency-Between-GLOBALG.A.P.-and-the-Ministry-of-Agriculture-and-Rural-Development-of-Vietnam/)

Farm Siting

Good management of farm siting can help to mitigate possible negative impacts on resources and the environment including: the impingement on natural ecosystems such as mangrove and wetlands and the species that live within them; the discharge of sediment into natural waters; and over-abstraction of freshwater supplies1. All national and local laws should be adhered to and all farms should have the required licences, permits and registrations in regards to their site and its operations, with documentation being kept to evidence compliance.

New farms should be located within appropriately identified aquaculture zones2 and ideally in areas where aquaculture development plans exist. Farm and pond developments should take place on land that has previously been used (for at least 10 years) for agriculture or aquaculture. Existing and new farmers should consider carrying out assessments such as Biodiversity Environmental Impact Assessments (B-EIA) which are participatory and open in terms of results and outcomes. Where B-EIAs require rehabilitation of affected ecosystems then procedures should follow approved restoration guidelines.

As pangasius farms are often located in areas with relatively rich wildlife, species that prey on fish can be attracted to them3. This can potentially cause problems due to direct losses as a result of predation, as well as having wider impacts on the stock due to stress and injuries. Pangasius farmers should ensure all possible management measures are taken to protect stocks from predators. This might be via netting of smaller ponds or fencing site perimeters. Deterrents, scarers and increased on-site activity may be effective and are preferable to lethal methods of predator control, which should only be resorted to when other methods have failed, and then only when appropriate licences are in place. Care should be taken to ensure that predator prevention does not potentially damage threatened, endangered or protected species.

Pangasius farms can apply for certification which ensures they address issues such as siting of the farm to avoid impacts in protected areas, discharge of earth into water bodies, negative impacts on endangered species, compliance with water abstraction limits, and so forth.

  1. Seafood Watch (https://www.seafoodwatch.org/-/m/sfw/pdf/reports/c/mba_seafoodwatch_catfish_vietnam_report.pdf)
  2. Pilgrim, J.D., 2010. Biodiversity Impacts of Pangasius Farming in the Mekong Delta. Report for the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, 2010
  3. FAO/World Bank (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6834e.pdf)

Nutrient Pollution

Pangasius farmers continually seek to improve the efficiency of feeding methods in order to reduce operational costs and to minimise waste feed settling on the bottom of the pond. Waste feed, along with other organic discharges from farming operations, can potentially lead to pollution of receiving waters and adversely affect aquatic life through de-oxygenation and algal blooms, which can be associated with nutrient increase. The key nutrients likely to cause problems for receiving waters are nitrogen and phosphorus1.

The type and quality of feed used will affect the discharge of nutrients. To improve their performance, farms should monitor feed utilisation efficiency, the quality of the pond effluents and water quality in the receiving water body. Monitoring methods are documented within certification standards.

Farms should also document and record how they dispose of pond sludge and any other solid wastes. Pond sludge and waste water is used to fertilise agricultural land surrounding pangasius farms in areas such as the Mekong Delta2, 3. Sludge repositories are often used on pangasius farms and are required by many certification schemes. The use of sedimentation basins or dedicated ponds to capture particulates in waste water is effective but more work is required to remove dissolved nutrients3. One area of growing interest is the use of clean-up technologies such as constructed wetlands, where aquatic plants such as water hyacinth can help trap fine suspended particles and utilise dissolved nutrients4. These plants can then be harvested giving a farmer an additional crop and alternative income stream.

Recirculation of water within an aquaculture facility is often cited as a sustainable means of reducing environmental impacts from waste water discharges, as well as reducing escapees and helping diseases control. Investment costs to enable recirculation are significant. Pangasius farmers are unlikely to consider this technology unless, for example, they are located in areas of salt water intrusion and need to limit saline water entering their ponds, and the price for the fish they produce can be increased5.

  1. Seafood Watch (https://www.seafoodwatch.org/-/m/sfw/pdf/reports/c/mba_seafoodwatch_catfish_vietnam_report.pdf)
  2. Trieu, T.T.N. and Lu, M., 2014. Estimates of Nutrient Discharge from Striped Catfish Farming in the Mekong River, Vietnam, by Using a 3D Numerical Model. Aquaculture International, 22, (2014) p469-483 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257365368_Estimates_of_nutrient_discharge_from_striped_catfish_farming_in_the_Mekong_River_Vietnam_by_using_a_3D_numerical_model)
  3. Khoi, L.N.D., 2011. Quality Management in the Pangasius Export Supply Chain in Vietnam: The Case of Small-Scale Pangasius Farming in the Mekong River Delta. PhD thesis, University of Groningen, The Netherlands, 2011
  4. Boyd, C.E. et al, 2011. Sludge Management at BAP Pangasius Farm Cuts TAN, BOD, TSS in Discharges. Aquaculture Advocate, Sept.-Oct., 2011 p40-42 (https://issuu.com/tigrey/docs/www.gaalliance.com)
  5. Ngoc, P.T.A et al, 2016. Adoption of recirculating aquaculture systems in large pangasius farms: A choice experiment. Aquaculture 460 (2016) p90–97 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0044848616301715)

Feed

Fish Meal and Fish Oil
Marine ingredients such as Fishmeal (FM) and Fish Oil (FO) provide nutrients that often cannot be found in other feed materials (e.g. particular amino acids, vitamins and minerals), and they are essential constituents of many aquafeeds. FM and FO are a finite resource and are seen by the aquaculture industry as a strategic ingredient to be used efficiently and replaced where possible1.

Globally the FM and FO used in aquafeeds is increasingly derived from fishery and aquaculture processing by-product; the utilisation of these by-products as a raw material for FM and FO production is in the region of 25%-35% and this trend will continue; it is expected to rise to 49% by 20221, 2, 3.

IFFO The Marine Ingredients Organisation4 (formerly known as The International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation or IFFO) estimate that if aquaculture is taken as a whole, producing one tonne of fed farmed fish (excluding filter feeding species) now takes 0.22 tonnes of whole wild fish. This essentially means that for every 0.22kg of whole wild fish used in FM production, a kilo of farmed fish is produced; in other words, for every 1 kg of wild fish used 4.5 kg of farmed fish is produced5.

FM in East and SE Asia is often (but not always) derived from local reduction or ‘trash fish fisheries’, which are sometimes unregulated6, 7. Consequently, traceability and origin of aquatic ingredients is an important factor in the sustainability of pangasius operations. Perhaps the most important mitigation measure is to ensure that products such as FM and FO used to manufacture aquafeed come from legal, reported and regulated fisheries. Such fishery products can demonstrate their sourcing adheres to the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) “Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries”8, known as CCRF, through several mechanisms:

  • The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)9 which certifies fisheries to an international standard based on FAO best-practice requirements
  • IFFO RS Global Standard for Responsible Supply (IFFO RS)10 which certifies FM and FO through a process which includes the assessment of source fisheries against a set of CCRF-based requirements
  • Information platforms such as FishSource11 or FisheryProgress12 which provide information and analysis without a certification or approval rating

Currently around 1.9 million tonnes of FM production is certified as either IFFO RS or MSC – representing about 40% of global production; most of this comes from South America, but Europe and North America are providing significant volumes, and North Africa currently has certified production. Currently there is no certified FM product produced in China and only very small quantities (less than 10,000 tonnes) are produced in the rest of Asia (and this is from by-products)2.Aquaculture certification schemes also require that fish products used in feeds are not on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red lists13 of threatened species or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)14 lists of endangered species.GM

GM Feed Ingredients
The use of genetically modified (GM) vegetable ingredients in animal feedstuffs (including aquafeed) is an ongoing area of debate15. Whilst some contend that GM soy can help support current levels of aquaculture, global attitudes and consumer perceptions about the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) vary in different parts of the world, with North American markets being far less averse than European ones. However, their use in all livestock feed is widespread, and in the EU food from animals fed on authorised GM crops is considered to be as safe as food from animals fed on non-GM crops16.

Pangasius Feed
Careful management of food and feeding regimes are important to the success of aquaculture. To reduce wasting aquafeed on farms, efficient feed use can be monitored and should comply with levels set in certification standards. The indicators used can include the Feed Conversion Rate or FCR (the amount of feed an animal requires to gain a kilogram of body weight), economic feed conversion ratio (eFCR), maximum fish feed equivalence ratio (FFER), or protein efficiency ratio (PER).

The use of commercial pangasius aquafeed in countries such as Vietnam is the norm. In 2012 over 30 companies in the Mekong Delta produced around 1.95 million tonnes of pangasius aquafeed17. A ‘typical’ pangasius grow-out feed is shown in the table opposite. In terms of feeding efficiency, the average FCR for pangasius is around 1.518.

Plant material inclusion in pangasius aquafeeds is high at over 90%, and ingredients such as rice bran are available in the region, however others such as oilseeds (e.g. soy) and grains have to be imported from other parts of the world18.

Typical pangasius grow-out feeds have low FM inclusion rates of around 5%. Whilst feeds contain relatively little FM, the total volumes used in producing pangasius feeds are significant18. IFFO The Marine Ingredients Organisation estimate that in 2015 for every 0.13 kg of whole wild fish used in FM production for ‘other freshwater fish’ (which includes pangasius) aquafeeds, a kilo of freshwater fish is produced5.

As feed companies constantly develop their aquafeed formulations the decreasing inclusion of marine ingredients will not only continue in pangasius feeds but in those for a number of other aquaculture species.

  1. IFFO (http://www.seafish.org/media/1689782/acig_apr17_fm_fo_iffo.pdf)
  2. IFFO (http://www.iffo.net/system/files/Report%20IoA%20IFFO%20project%20Final_0.pdf)
  3. Seafish (http://www.seafish.org/media/publications/SeafishFishmealandFishOilFactsandFigures_201612.pdf)
  4. IFFO (http://www.iffo.net/)
  5. IFFO (http://www.iffo.net/fish-fish-out-fifo-ratios-conversion-wild-feed)
  6. SFP (http://media.sustainablefish.org/SFP_Brief_FS_Reduc.pdf)
  7. REBYC-II CTI (http://www.rebyc-cti.org/)
  8. FAO (http://www.fao.org/fishery/code/en)
  9. MSC (https://www.msc.org/)
  10. IFFO RS (http://www.iffo.net/iffo-rs)
  11. FishSource (https://www.fishsource.org/)
  12. FisheryProgress (https://fisheryprogress.org/)
  13. IUCN (http://www.iucnredlist.org/)
  14. CITES (https://www.cites.org/)
  15. Sissener, N.H. et al, 2011. Genetically modified plants as fish feed ingredients. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2011, 68(3) p563-574 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235762978_Genetically_modified_plants_as_fish_feed_ingredients)
  16. FSA (https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/gm-in-animal-feed)
  17. Merican, Z. and Huong, N.T.M., 2010. Sa Dec – Vietnam’s Pangasius Feed Capital. AQUA Culture Asia Pacific Magazine, Sept.-Oct. issue, 2010, p10-15
  18. Seafood Watch (https://www.seafoodwatch.org/-/m/sfw/pdf/reports/c/mba_seafoodwatch_catfish_vietnam_report.pdf)

Disease, Medicines and Chemicals

In common with all other animal farming systems in which animals are raised in greater numbers than they would be found in nature, the farming of pangasius can potentially increase the risk of disease outbreaks due to the number of individual animals living in close proximity to each other. It is essential that good husbandry and a pro-active approach to health management is adopted at each farm location in order to minimise and mitigate these risks.

Despite the volumes produced and the intensive nature of pangasius farming, large scale disease outbreaks have seldom been reported. However two major bacterial diseases affect the industry; Bacillary Necrosis of Pangasius or BNP (caused by Edwardsiella ictaluri) and Motile Aeromonid Septicaemia1.

Along with better regulation, there has been increasing uptake of Best Management Practices (BMPs), codes of conduct, and certification schemes in the Asia-Pacific region and in pangasius aquaculture which help in tackling disease issues. The first line of defence in disease and pathogen management is effective biosecurity and health plans to minimise disease and its spread. This includes continued maintenance of optimal health conditions, and ensuring maximum stocking densities are not exceeded at various stages of the production cycle. Monitoring and achieving target growth ensures that the stock is performing well, and recording of annual average farm survival rate indicates health of the systems.

Veterinary medicines and chemicals can play an important role in maintaining aquatic animal health, including antibiotics, but incorrect use can have environmental as well as human health impacts. Overuse of antibiotics in farming or for human medical treatment speeds up the development of antibiotic resistance, which is when bacteria change and become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them2. Medicine usage on aquaculture farms in Asia found antibiotic treatments highest on Vietnamese pangasius farms, however quantities used relative to production were found to be comparable or even lower than those reported for other animal production commodities3.

Pangasius farms should only use veterinary medicines and chemicals that are approved by national authorities and these should be prescribed by an aquatic animal health specialist. Farmers should follow the instructions of the aquatic animal health specialist regarding storage, and medicines or chemicals should be used as per directions. Stock should not be harvested before completion of the withdrawal period specified for the medicine.  Records of medicine and chemical stocks and their usage should be kept and made available for inspection or audit.

The following veterinary medicines should not be used4, 5:

  • Antibiotics critical for human medicine, as categorised by the World Health Organisation6
  • Veterinary medicines (excluding vaccines) used prophylactically prior to evidence of a specific disease problem
  • Veterinary medicines (excluding vaccines) to serve as growth promoters

These prohibitions are frequently part of regulation and specified in pangasius certification programmes.

Misuse of chemical products for disease control can lead to food safety scares and is linked to the development of food safety assessment schemes such as the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF)7. Pangasius farming has been the focus of food safety scares on numerous occasions however these reports have often been unfounded8, 9, 10.

Vaccination plays an important role in pangasius farming. An important step forward was the licensing of ALPHAJECT Panga 1 in Vietnam in 2013; the first vaccine against E. ictulari11, and its use should reduce the number of outbreaks of BNP. Vietnam also has a national plan for disease surveillance in pangasius aquaculture (and its other aquaculture sectors such as warm water prawn) to improve disease prevention and warning12.

Biosecurity is very important, as is having a biosecurity plan in place at individual farm and area level. The key elements of biosecurity include: practical and appropriate legislative controls; adequate diagnostic and detection methods for infectious diseases; disinfection and pathogen eradication methods (e.g. appropriate pond preparation and cleaning); reliable high quality sources of stock; and best management practices13, 14.

Regular health checks and screening allow for rapid action to be taken if problems begin to develop. Certification schemes set targets for maximum average real percentage mortality rates. Maintenance of good daily records of mortalities facilitates future management by highlighting when in the production cycle disease problems are likely to occur.

The development of a written health plan updated annually and approved by an aquatic animal health specialist is recommended and is often a certification requirement. The farmer should follow the instructions of aquatic animal health specialists as to who to inform and how to stop the spread of any disease.

Functional aquafeeds for farmed fish are developing. These feeds include a range of additives used to improve growth and feed utilization but also to support the health and stress resistance. Additives such as probiotics, prebiotics, phytogenics, and immune-stimulants may help improve disease resistance and reduce disease incidences15, 16.

  1. FAO (http://www.fao.org/fishery/culturedspecies/Pangasius_hypophthalmus/en)
  2. WHO (http://www.who.int/features/2015/antibiotics-norway/en/)
  3. Rico, A. et al, 2013. Use of veterinary medicines, feed additives and probiotics in four major internationally traded aquaculture species farmed in Asia. Aquaculture 412- 413, 2013 p231 – 243 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256838397_Use_of_veterinary_medicines_feed_additives_and_probiotics_in_four_major_internationally_traded_aquaculture_species_farmed_in_Asia
  4. Seafish (http://www.seafish.org/industry-support/legislation/veterinary-residues)
  5. ASC Pangasius Standard (https://www.asc-aqua.org/what-we-do/our-standards/farm-standards/the-pangasius-standard/)
  6. WHO (http://www.who.int/en/)
  7. Little, D. C. et al, 2012. Whitefish wars: Pangasius, politics and consumer confusion in Europe. Marine Policy, 36(3) p738-745 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308597X11001564)
  8. Murk, A. J. et al, 2016. Perceived versus real toxicological safety of pangasius catfish: a review modifying market perspectives. Reviews in Aquaculture. June 2016 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/raq.12151/abstract)
  9. The Aquaculturist (http://theaquaculturists.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/02122015-risk-v-hazard-dispassionate.html)
  10. The Aquaculturist (http://theaquaculturists.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/24022017-gaa-supports-responsible.html)
  11. Pharmaq (http://www.pharmaq.no/)
  12. MARD Directorate of Fisheries (https://tongcucthuysan.gov.vn/en-us/aquaculture/aquatic-disease-prevention/doc-tin/007647/2017-05-03/national-plan-for-disease-surveillance-on-shrimp-and-tra-pangasius-for-export-2017-2020)
  13. Fish Health Inspectorate (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/278581/Finfish_biosecurity_measures_plan.pdf)
  14. Fish Vet Group (http://www.virasure.com/biosecurity/biosecurity-in-aquaculture-part-3/)
  15. Encarnacao, P., 2016. Functional feed additives in aquaculture feeds. Aquafeed Formulation, 2016 p217-237 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128008737000051)
  16. International Aquafeed Magazine (https://issuu.com/international_aquafeed/docs/iaf1701_w1/28)

Escapes and Introductions

Escapees from aquaculture facilities can potentially impact on habitats and species in the receiving water bodies. Problems could occur due to: competition; potential disease transfer; establishment of non-native species; interbreeding with wild populations; and impacts on sensitive habitats. Vietnam continues to be at the centre of production and escapes of pangasius within its native range (i.e. the Mekong river) is not considered a major concern1. However pangasius is now farmed in parts of the world as a non–native species, with large-scale production in countries such as Bangladesh2, 3 and India alongside a developing small-scale production level in regions such as the Caribbean.

The contribution of non-native species to the growth of the global aquaculture industry and the economic benefits that it has brought to many countries cannot be underestimated. However, minimising the escapes of non-native aquaculture species must be a high priority for resource managers, conservationists and the aquaculture industry4.

Authorities can ensure that new pangasius facilities apply for the appropriate licences and permits, and should provide evidence that containment systems will prevent escape and escapees will not establish in the wild.

Losses due to escapes represent a considerable financial loss to a farm so it is in their interest to prevent them as much as possible. There has been increasing regulation, uptake of Best Management Practices (BMPs), codes of conduct or practices and certification schemes in pangasius aquaculture which help in tackling escape issues.

To reduce escape risks farms should have trapping devices such as screens and grills on all water inlets, outlets and drainage channels; these should be suitably sized to match the size of the stock. These screens should be regularly inspected, maintained and such actions recorded. Pond embankments, bunds, and levees should be of adequate height and build standard to retain stocks during periods of flood and regularly inspected and maintained. There should be no intentional release of pangasius stock from the farm.

Pangasius broodstock or juveniles should be from trusted and registered sources, disease free, and have met all appropriate legal requirements and guidelines.

  1. Seafood Watch (https://www.seafoodwatch.org/-/m/sfw/pdf/reports/c/mba_seafoodwatch_catfish_vietnam_report.pdf)
  2. Singh, A.K. and Lakra, W.S., 2012. Culture of Pangasianodon hypophthalmus into India: Impacts and Present Scenario. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 2012, 15 (1) p19-26 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/224834222_Culture_of_Pangasianodon_hypophthalmus_into_India_Impacts_and_Present_Scenario)
  3. Ali, H. et al, 2013. Striped catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus, Sauvage, 1878) aquaculture in Bangladesh: an overview. Aquaculture Research, 2013, 44, p950–965 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256544627_Striped_Catfish_Pangasianodon_hypophthalmus_Sauvage_1878_Aquaculture_in_Bangladesh_An_Overview)
  4. Cook, E.J. et al, 2007. Non-Native Aquaculture Species Releases: Implications for Aquatic. Chapter 5 in Aquaculture in the Ecosystem, p155-184 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225989929_Non-Native_Aquaculture_Species_Releases_Implications_for_Aquatic_Ecosystems)

Certification

Aquaculture (and fisheries) certification and labelling programmes have become a primary tool to address sustainability issues of farmed seafood, and the development of third party assessment and certification has provided new forms of governance traditionally dominated by state-based regulation1, 2. The growth in the number of certification schemes has led to confusion surrounding the myriad of them out there. To try and combat this, the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI)1 has developed its global benchmarking tool to measure and compare certification schemes and standards performance across seafood production.

Given the prominence of environmental issues as the driver for the development of aquaculture standards, there is an understandably strong emphasis on environmental criteria within them3. Certification enables aquaculture producers to voluntarily demonstrate their responsible farming practices by: complying with national legislation; minimising impact on habitats and wildlife; making the best use of locally available resources; and ensuring the best use of feed and therapeutic products.

Aquaculture certification currently has moderate to high coverage of labour standards (e.g. minimum wage)3, however, increased social and economic requirements related to human rights, gender and sustainable livelihoods are being developed.

Since 2011, a partnership of UK businesses called the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC)4 have been working to ensure all fish and seafood sold in the UK comes from sustainable sources, and aquaculture certification plays a pivotal role. All members need to ensure that the aquaculture source (considering feed mills, hatcheries, and farm sites) is certified under a third party standard, or audited to a members own good aquaculture standard or code of practice5.

The table below looks at some of the major aquaculture certification schemes, including those for pangasius, and if they address the Key Considerations highlighted throughout the profiles. It also highlights which scheme has a standard/s successfully benchmarked by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI)1.

Read more on aquaculture certification, including that of pangasius, after the table.

Certification Scheme: Description and Links Governance Farm Siting Nutrient Pollution Feed Disease, Medicines & Chemicals Escapes & Introductions Wild Seed GSSI Benchmarked

Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)

Founded in 2010 by WWF and IDH (Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative) the ASC is an independent not for profit organisation with global influence. ASC aims to be the world’s leading certification and labelling programme for responsibly farmed seafood.

The ASC consumer label demonstrates the integrity of the seafood product.

Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practice (GAA BAP)

GAA BAP has been certifying aquaculture since 2004, and is administered by the GAA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocacy, education and leadership in responsible aquaculture. Aquaculture Facility Certification:

The BAP program employs a star system to signify the integration levels of BAP certification along the aquaculture production chain. These stars are displayed on the BAP logo and appear on packaging for a variety of farmed seafood products worldwide.

GLOBALG.A.P. (GG)

GG offers 16 standards for 3 scopes: Crops, Livestock, and Aquaculture. GG has been one of the most widely accepted private sector food safety certification in the world since 2007.

GG Aquaculture certified producers have now the option to use the consumer facing  GGN Certified Aquaculture label.

Friend of the Sea (FoS)

FoS is a non-profit NGO, whose mission is the conservation of the marine habitat. FoS is now a leading international certification project for products originated from both sustainable fisheries and aquaculture:

EU Organic Aquaculture

All aquaculture products sold as “organic” in the European Union (EU) have to fulfil the requirements that are laid down by the EU regulations:

This includes products certified according to private organic standards. The EU Organic logo makes organic products easily identifiable by consumers.

Naturland

Naturland was founded in 1982 when organic agriculture was regarded as a marginal issue. Since the mid-1990s, Naturland has developed standards for different species and production systems in aquaculture:

The Naturland label is intended as a guide for consumers.

Soil Association

The Soil Association was formed in 1946 and champions organic principles and practice.

The Soil Association logo sends a message to consumers that the product is organically produced.


Indicates the Certification Scheme addresses the Key Consideration

 – Indicates the Certification Scheme has had one or more of its Standards benchmarked against the Global Benchmark Tool Version 1 and recognised by the GSSI Steering Board

Certified Aquaculture Production
Production of certified seafood, both aquaculture and wild catch, has grown rapidly over the past decade and now represents a significant portion of global seafood production. Certified sustainable seafood in 2003 equated to some 500,000 tonnes (0.5% of global production); in 2015 this figure had risen to 23 million tonnes (14% of global production). Some 80% of certified seafood is wild catch, but certified aquaculture is growing twice as fast and is set to dominate growth in certified seafood for the foreseeable future3.

In 2015, certified aquaculture accounted for 6.3% of world aquaculture production. Of this 6.3%, seven species groups were dominant (i.e. salmon, pangasius, mussels, tilapia, prawns, trout and sea bream) and accounted for 97%3. This relatively low global level of certified aquaculture and the narrow range of species groups, is largely due to:

  • China’s dominance in global aquaculture but its relative absence in certified production
  • 70% of all global production coming from small-scale producers

Certification of small-scale aquaculture continues to be an issue, mainly due to the cost and difficulties in complying with standards; key challenges include finance, technical knowledge and organisational capacity. Educating small-scale farmers on how to comply, as well as identifying national policy and regulatory gaps supporting small-scale aquaculture certification, is becoming ever more necessary6. Multiple-farm or ‘cluster’ certification may be a way forward for small-scale producers.

Four schemes are responsible for the majority of certified aquaculture production, namely the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practice (GAA BAP), GlobalG.A.P. (GG) , and Friend of the Sea (FoS)3.

Certified Pangasius Production
Figures provided by the certification schemes themselves and relating to their totals of certified farmed pangasius break down into:7

  • 196,510 tonnes under ASC (as of July 2019)7
  • 58,868 tonnes of pangasius under the GAA BAP Farm Standard (as of June 2019)8
  • ~7,500 tonnes under FoS (as of June 2019)9
  • Figure from GG is unavailable due to data privacy related to the number of certificate holders/producers under certification10

(It is important to note that certification under one scheme does not preclude certification under another, and gathering accurate data on rates of multiple certification is very difficult. As a result simply adding the production volumes of individual schemes can result in double counting and overestimation. The authors of the aggregate data referred to above make no adjustment for multiple certification.)

  1. GSSI (http://www.ourgssi.org)
  2. Vince, J. and Haward, M., 2017. Hybrid governance of aquaculture: Opportunities and challenges. Journal of Environmental Management 201, (2017) p138-144
  3. International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), 2016. State of Sustainability Initiatives Review: Standards and the Blue Economy’ 2016. International Institute for Sustainable Development (http://www.iisd.org/ssi/standards-and-the-blue-economy/)
  4. SSC (https://www.sustainableseafoodcoalition.org/)
  5. SSC Guidance Voluntary Codes of Conduct (https://www.documents.clientearth.org/wp-content/uploads/library/2015-12-16-guidance-for-the-sustainable-seafood-coalition-ssc-voluntary-codes-of-conduct-ssc-en.pdf)
  6. FAO (http://www.fao.org/cofi/30797-0a436c88813a66cf4a752efb95d6be1e2.pdf)
  7. ASC (https://www.asc-aqua.org/news/certification-update/)
  8. GAA, BAP, pers. comm., 2019
  9. FoS, pers. comm., 2019
  10. GlobalGAP, pers. comm., 2019