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Saturday November 11, 2006

Rearing prized ikan empurau


newsdesk@thestar.com.my 

KUCHING: Forester Dr Elli Luhat has a dream – turning his childhood fish-rearing hobby into breeding Sarawak’s most prized fish species commercially. 

The Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation forest resource manager has taken a major step in breeding the ikan empurau and ikan semah in several ponds in his house compound in Taman Satria Jaya here. 

Ikan empurau, Sarawak’s most expensive freshwater fish, fetches between RM350 and RM380 a kg while ikan semah fetches between RM150 and RM200 a kg. 

SWIMMING GOLDMINE: Some of the ikan empurau in Dr Luhat’s pond in the compound of his house in Taman Satria Jaya, Kuching.
Even at that price, ikan empurau is hard to come by as the fish is rarely found, and only in the interiors of Kapit Division and Baram in northern Sarawak. 

Ikan empurau survives well in stone-based clear water rivers. The fish can grow up to 20kg.  

“I feel that the fish is tastier than any other fish,” said Dr Luhat, an Orang Ulu from Belaga in Kapit Division.  

He claimed to be the only one who had successfully bred the two types of fish in captivity. 

“I try to simulate the pond environment to as close as the natural habitat through the control of water temperature, oxygen and pH content,” he added. 

Dr Luhat said he obtained some 600 ikan empurau and 1,000 ikan semah fry from the state Agriculture Department more than seven months ago and the fish had now grown to about 700gms. 

Describing the ikan empurau and ikan semah as a “swimming goldmine,” Dr Luhat said: “My dream is to grow ikan empurau to 3kg in three years.  

“At that size, each fish will be worth about RM1,000. It will be a whopping RM500,000 to have 500 mature ikan empurau.”  

He said Australian scientists helping the Agriculture Department to produce the fry for release into the river and streams had encouraged him to go commercial in breeding the fish.  

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