With the locally bred trapia – a sustainable species – you can have your fish and eat it too, minus the guilt.
Trapia – short for traceable tilapia – farmed in Lake Temenggor, in Upper Perak, is set to make a name for Malaysia in the global seafood industry.
The first container containing 10 tonnes of frozen Trapia fillet was exported to the United States last month.
CHH Aquatics Sdn Bhd is marketing and distributing the fishes under the name of Norwegian Emerald Fish which is now locally available in major cities and in the Klang Valley at Giant and Cold Storage, and soon at other leading hypermarkets.
Trapia is one of the two stocks of farmed fish that are reared using the Genopass System – a method that uses DNA genotyping to verify the origin of fish pre-tagged when it is a fingerling.
The Genopass System was developed by GenoMar which has been selectively breeding tilapia for more than 10 years.
GenoMar president and CEO Morten Hoyum said that, once determined, the DNA profile of the sampled fish, or fillet, can be traced right through the value chain to the correct parent panel.
“Through the Genopass System, we can verify whether a particular fish or fillet comes from GenoMar’s farm, simply by taking a tissue sample from any part of the fish and genotyping this,” said Hoyum in an interview.
The DNA profile does not change – even if the fish has undergone freezing and filleting – unless the fish is cooked.
Trapia Malaysia Sdn Bhd is the first company to implement this state-of-the-art, egg-to-plate, tamper-proof traceability system in Lake Temenggor.
It is a joint venture corporation between GenoMar AS of Norway (70% ownership) and its Malaysian partners Dalefin Holding Sdn Bhd, which was set up in 2008 to produce traceable and DNA-verified Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).
The tilapia is a sustainable species, the consumption of which will not deplete the oceans.
“Lake Temenggor is a natural, sustainable site. It is one of the few beautiful lakes in Asia and its water quality is good,” said Hoyum.
He said the project also involved the local community who would help in distributing the fish in local markets and in contract-farming under the Trapia umbrella to produce the fish.
Safe for consumption
Trapia is a fish bred in a halal environment, having received accreditation from Jakim for the second year. The fish is not a carnivore and is fed with vegetable-based pellets.
Of the trapia samples sent to the United States last year, Hoyum said the consumers there liked the fish.
“They found the meat mild in taste. There is no smell of mud, it has a good texture and is one of the best-tasting freshwater fish bred in cages,” he said.
“We have our own hatchery in Bongor in Gerik, grow-out farms in Lake Temenggor. We don’t buy fry; we have our own.
“The grow-out facility consists of two modules, each comprising 20 floating circular cages. The production capacity of each module is 2,500 tonnes per year.
“The cage netting is similar to that used in the salmon industry overseas to prevent seals from breaking through.
“The netting goes to a depth of 6m and has a cone-shaped entrapment for waste.
“The fish are brought to the cage when they are three months old or weigh about 40g. They are ready for harvest after another five months when they weigh about1kg.
“Waste from the fish is collected to be used as fertilisers by farmers,” he said.
During harvest, the fish are pumped into a station and towed to the landing site for live transportation to the fillet plant in Parit Buntar.
The plan is to gradually increase eight more modules and raise production to between 20,000 tonnes and 25,000 tonnes, Hoyum added.
The grow-out facility has already obtained approval from the Accreditation Certification Council (ACC), and Trapia Malaysia Sdn Bhd received a certificate for Best Aquaculture Practices from ACC last April.
The company has spent millions of Ringgit on environmental impact assessment studies and implementation of environment-friendly operations, such as floating collection systems of organic waste.
Trapia Malaysia Sdn Bhd environmental manager Matt Dyck said a full-fledged Environmental Monitoring System for monitoring water quality parameters had been installed around the grow-out facility and at important points in the lake, such as river mouths.
“We have data recording to optimise the operation and minimise the environmental impact on the lake.
“We will know if a problem develops somewhere in the lake and take action to prevent it from spreading to areas where the cages are,” Dyck said.
Trapia Malaysia Sdn Bhd general manager Lai Sead Ping said the operation of a third module of 20 cages, to be monitored by the company, would be contracted out to the Fishery Department soon.
“Our objective is to have 10 modules. We plan to export 40% of our production to America and 40% to Europe. The remaining 20% will be for the local market,” he said. - By Foong Thim Leng