Basa fish

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Basa fish, Pangasius bocourti
Basa fish Vinh Long market, Việt Nam
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Pangasiidae
Genus: Pangasius
Species: P. bocourti
Binomial name
Pangasius bocourti
Sauvage, 1880

The basa fish, Pangasius bocourti, is a type of catfish in the family Pangasiidae. Basa are native to the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam and Chao Phraya basin in Thailand.[2] These fish are important food fish with an international market. They are often labeled in North America and Australia as "basa fish", "swai",[3] or "bocourti".[4] In the UK all species of Pangasius may legally be described as river cobbler, basa, pangasius, panga, or any of these with the addition of "catfish".[5] In Europe these fish are commonly marketed as "pangasius" or "panga".[6] Other related shark catfish may occasionally be incorrectly labeled as basa fish, including Pangasianodon hypophthalmus (iridescent shark) and Pangasius pangasius (yellowtail catfish).

Some people without a general fish allergy are allergic, potentially even fatally, to pangasius and Nile tilapia.[7][8]

Body[edit]

The body of a basa fish is stout and heavy. The rounded head is broader than it is long, with the blunt snout having a white band on its muzzle. This species grows to a length of 120 centimetres (47 in) SL.

Food and spawning[edit]

Basa fish feed on plants. They spawn at the onset of flood season and the young are first seen in June, averaging about 5 cm by mid-June.[2]

"Catfish war" in the U.S.[edit]

In 2002, the United States accused Vietnam of dumping catfish, namely Pangasius bocourti and Pangasius hypophthalmus, on the American market, charging the Vietnamese importers, who are subsidized by Vietnam's government, of unfair competition.[9][10] With pressures from the U.S. catfish industry, the United States Congress passed a law in 2003 preventing the imported fish from being labelled as catfish, as well as imposing additional tariffs on the imported fish.[11] Under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruling, only species from the family Ictaluridae can be sold as true catfish.[3] As a result, the Vietnamese exporters of this fish now label their products sold in the U.S. as basa fish or bocourti.[12][13]

At the height of the "catfish war", U.S. catfish farmers and others were describing the imported catfish as an inferior product. However, Mississippi State University researchers found imported basa were preferred 3-to-1 to US catfish in a small blind taste test.[14]

Environmental and health concerns[edit]

Several environmental organizations concerned with marine ecosystems have raised concerns about basa. OceanWise, an environmental organization associated with the Vancouver Aquarium has flagged farmed basa for its potential pollution of ecosystems and interference with wild species.[15] It writes, "Open cage farming in Southeast Asia is associated with disease transfer to wild basa. There are also concerns about feed quality, farm operating standards and the biological impact of using wild stock for culturing."[15] The Monterey Bay Aquarium, while having concerns, does not red-flag basa. Both groups cite USA farmed catfish as a more sustainable alternative.

Tests by Asda and Tesco in the UK have found no trace of toxic contaminants.[16] Test from AQIS found trace levels of malachite green, but no other contaminants.[17][18][19]

Basa in the UK[edit]

Basa has become fairly common in the UK as "Vietnamese river cobbler", "river cobbler", or "basa". It is mainly sold by large supermarkets, in both fresh and frozen forms, as a cheaper alternative to popular white fish such as cod or haddock. Young's uses it in some of its frozen fish products, under the name basa.[20]

UK Trading Standards officers said that cobbler was being fraudulently sold as cod by some fish and chip retailers to take advantage of the much lower price of cobbler, about half that of cod. This practice was highlighted by the successful prosecution of two retailers, using DNA evidence, in 2009 and 2010.[21][22] Sometimes pangasius is described, legally, simply as fish, e.g. "fish and chips".[22] There have been cases of serious allergic reactions by people, not generally allergic to fish, unknowingly eating pangasius.[8]

Popular culture[edit]

P. bocourti, known in Thai as pla mong, is the mascot of Nakhon Phanom Games, a regional multi-sport event in northeast Thailand in October 2006.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vidthayanon, C. (2012). "Pangasius bocourti". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Pangasius bocourti" in FishBase. February 2012 version.
  3. ^ a b "Basa/Swai". SeaFood Business magazine. Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  4. ^ "CFIA Fish List". Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 7 July 2010. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Fish Labelling (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2006 "Fish Labelling (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2006". COT. 26 May 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2009. 
  6. ^ "Vietnam catfish farmers angered by French reports". Monsters and Critics. 19 May 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  7. ^ Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2010;20(1):84-8, Monosensitivity to pangasius and tilapia caused by allergens other than parvalbumin, Ebo DG, Kuehn A, Bridts CH, Hilger C, Hentges F, Stevens WJ
  8. ^ a b Leicester Mercury: Fish and chips nearly a deadly dish for allergy patient Luke, 24 January 2011
  9. ^ Becker, Elizabeth (16 January 2002). "Delta Farmers Want Copyright on Catfish". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 30 January 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  10. ^ Armstrong, David (8 February 2003). "Food Fight: U.S. accuses Vietnam of dumping catfish on the American market". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  11. ^ Philadelphia, Desa (25 February 2002). "Catfish by Any Other Name". Time (New York). Archived from the original on 26 January 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  12. ^ "Buyer's Guide: Basa Catfish". SeaFood Business magazine. November 2001. Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 31 March 2007. 
  13. ^ Greenberg, Paul (9 October 2008). "A Catfish by Any Other Name". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  14. ^ McConnaughey, Janet (19 July 2005). "Vietnam has tastier fish than US: studies". Independent Online (South Africa). SAPA-AP. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  15. ^ a b CatfishBasa | Ocean Wise
  16. ^ BBC Watchdog report[dead link]
  17. ^ Food Standards Australia Report 2005
  18. ^ Review of Provisions in the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code as they relate to Imported Seafood[dead link], March 2009, from the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
  19. ^ 'Correct Information About Basa from Seafood Importers Association
  20. ^ "Basa fillets". youngsseafood.co.uk. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  21. ^ Elliott, Valerie (13 July 2009). "Fish and chip shops accused of selling Vietnamese cobbler as cod". The Times (London). Retrieved 22 July 2009.  (subscription required)
  22. ^ a b "Chip shop owner admits fish fraud". BBC News. 15 April 2010. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  23. ^ Mascot page (in Thai), Nakhon Phanom Games official website, 6 December 2006

Further reading[edit]

Heavy metal residues in imported frozen fish and Pangasius hypophthalmus (Basa) fish fillets Heavy Reham, A. Amin. Heavy metal residues in imported frozen fish and Pangasius hypophthalmus (Basa) fish fillets