What Is Basa?
Basa is a fresh water fish, farmed mainly in the Mekong River system of Vietnam. It is one the world's most successful aquaculture species - and is rapidly becoming one of the most popular fish in Europe, north America - and Australia.
These fast growing fish produce large white fillets with no bones, flesh that is moist with a light firm texture, and a mild fish flavour - exactly the combination preferred by most Australians. This makes Basa one of the most versatile species we have: ideal for restaurant or take-away meals, but equally suitable as a table fish to cook at home using a multitude of recipes and cooking styles.
Basa is often presented in retail outlets already prepared in a variety of flavoured marinades, ready to cook and eat within minutes.
The name Basa was chosen by the Australian Fish Names Committee as the approved Standard marketing Australian name. It is derived from the local (Vietnamese) word for the species. Names such as Pacific Dory or Catfish are incorrect.
What Are The Growing Conditions For Basa?
Basa are grown in one of the most suitable environments for fish farming found anywhere in the world. The Mekong River (from which drains much of the Himalayan snow melt) has one of the largest consistent flows of fresh, clean water on the planet. Australian environmental scientists working for the Mekong River Commission, which monitors water quality at over 50 sites, confirm that testing over the past 15 years shows no serious contamination of the river - partly because there is little industry in its catchment, and partly because of its large flow. It is one of the cleanest of the world's large rivers. Claims that the Mekong River is seriously contaminated have been overwhelmingly refuted by those Australian scientists working in the region.
How Safe Is Basa?
Behind Vietnam's farmed fish export trade is a modern, multi-billion dollar industry that applies the highest levels of global science and technology in the entire chain of its safe food production - essential to enable it to compete in highly regulated and fastidious western markets. The processing factories that produce fish for export to Australia are at the cutting edge of modern technology and are accredited to the highest levels of international food safety.
In addition, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) service rigorously tests all arriving shipments of fish for a range of potential contaminants, prior to release. This multi-tier food safety system ensures consumers have no need to be concerned about product quality or food safety - and this is frequently confirmed by Australia's highest food safety authority: Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
Why Do We Need To Import Basa?
Australia's demand for seafood currently exceeds, by about double, the production capacity of our wild catch fisheries and our aquaculture industries. This is because Australia's wild fish resources have reached (and currently exceed) sustainable levels, and because our aquaculture industries are still in their infancy. modest component of seafood in their diet. This is not a new development - Australia has been importing much of its seafood for over 50 years.
As Australia's population grows, our reliance on imports will also grow. It's lucky that we have access to aquaculture species such as Basa, which not only provide a healthy and affordable replacement, but are sustainable in the long term - protecting Australia's (and the world's) wild fish stocks from depletion.
As a result, we need to import more than half of our annual requirement to enable all Australians to maintain even a modest component of fish in their diet.
Why Is Basa So Cheap?
Basa are very fast growing fish - so the cost of raising them is far less than for many other farmed species. When ready, Basa are easily harvested, and most farms are located inshore - close to processing factories. So there is no need to maintain large fishing fleets whose costs have been driven up in recent years by rising fuel prices, enormous license and quota fees, and the need to travel vast distances of ocean to find fewer and fewer fish. That's why aquaculure is so important to the world's future sustainable fish supply.
Is Basa A Healthy Choice Meal
Like most fish, Basa is high protein and low fat. These 'good' fats contain Omega-3. The regular consumption of fish (2 or 3 meals a week) is linked to significantly reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, bowel cancer and the prevention or mitigation of numerous other life threatening or debilitating illnesses. It is now well established that, in general, people who eat fish regularly, live longer and healthier lives.
The Heart Foundation recommends eating fish twice a week, and Basa is a great choice to fulfil this requirement.
Don't Believe Everything You Hear on TV
In early 2006, Channel 7's Today Tonight ran two programs depicting appalling growing conditions for aquaculture fish in Vietnam. The footage showed small 'cottage industry' farms growing fish for local consumption, focussing on polluted waterways and drains in urban areas. This is NOT where Basa, sold in Australia, is grown.
Although the reporter stated "this is where your fish and chips comes from", the footage did not represent the region's ultra-modern, multi-billion dollar Basa export industry. Even Food Standards Australia New Zealand described the information in the Today Tonight reports as "unreliable". The ABC's Media Watch has a special section on its website dedicated to misleading reports by the same Today Tonight reporter, titled The 'Sluggo' Files. It's worth a look!