Arapaima, pirarucu, or paiche -Arapaima gigas. (Photo: George Chernilevsky)
Promotion of arapaima as a gourmet product encouraged
Wednesday, February 13, 2013, 22:00 (GMT + 9)
A team of researchers from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, National University of Colombia (UNC) launched a study on arapaima (Arapaima gigas), one of the largest freshwater fish in the world.
The fatty acids it contains, which are very beneficial for humans, made scientists evaluate the possibility that this fishery resource became a gourmet product.
According to an article of the UNC journal, the arapaima is a major fishery resource and supply for many communities in the Amazon.
About 50 per cent of its weight is edible meat, prized for its flavour and protein.
In 2012, researchers characterized the fish samples collected in three regions: Leticia (Amazonas), Puerto Leguizamo (Putumayo) and El Doncello (Caqueta).
In the first two locations, the specimens came from local collection centres (capture fisheries), while in the third, from pond farming.
In this regard, Adriana Muñoz, University professor and research coordinator, explained that this fish is known as the "Giant of the waters" because it can exceed three meters long.
Recent research and the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO) showed that this species cultivated in ponds easily consume feeds provided by producers, although their natural diet consists of live fish.
"The fish has become one of the most studied in the world because it grows up to 20 grams per day, while other species such as tilapia, only two to four grams a day," said Muñoz.
Meanwhile, Alvaro Wills, a professor and researcher at the Department of Animal Production Science, said the arapaima "has suffered indiscriminate capture, and this has led it to be on the list of endangered fish, by irrational and inappropriate handling as a resource.”
Although this fish grows fast, sexual maturity is achieved when it is two or three years. Therefore, it is necessary to wait long enough to have a good batch of breeders, the UNC’s publication added.
The arapaima, also known as pirarucu or paiche, is carnivorous and during its first year of life may reach an average weight of 10 kilograms.
This resource is very popular in the Amazon but is unknown in the rest of Colombia.
Muñoz said that "due to its consumption habits, it has been found that its essential fatty acid profile is better than that of other tropical fish (tilapia and cachama), though not equal to that of a marine fish."
"This means it is a high quality meat. In addition, it is a lean fish compared to other fresh water fish," she added. "All tests exceeded expectations, to the extent that it has been confirmed that the arapaima steak is an excellent gourmet alternative."
By Analia Murias