Food for 9 Billion: Catfish farming in Vietnam

Photo by T-Oh! & Matt via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Yesterday Marketplace ran yet another installment in the ongoing public-media project, Food for 9 Billion. In it, reporter Sam Eaton takes a close look at Vietnam’s pangasius aquaculture, AKA catfish farming. As Eaton describes,

Jose Villalon, who heads the World Wildlife Fund’s aquaculture program, says pangasius may be the perfect factory fish.

It grows fast. It can breathe air through its mouth if things get too crowded. And, unlike carnivorous fish like salmon, it thrives on a mostly vegetarian diet.

“When you look at ponds like this and you see the production output of them and you see how the fish are feeding efficiently,” Villalon said. “This is going to be how the future will receive its marine protein.”

Intensive systems like this can feed a lot of people, but there’s also the potential for things to go terribly wrong. Rivers get polluted. Diseases run rampant. Forests and wetlands get bulldozed into new ponds. This is why Jose Villalon and WWF are here in Vietnam working with big producers like [Duong Ngoc] Minh [head of Vietnam’s largest catfish farming operation]. They hope to create a new model for industrial-scale fish farms that puts the planet on equal footing with profits.

“Right now we’re at this transition where aquaculture’s being produced in traditional ways and it’s not yet being asked to be responsible,” he said.

It’s a fascinating story, so check out the full audio or print version, along with photos and a video teaser, at Marketplace’s website. Then head here to learn about the World Wildlife Fund’s aquaculture program on pangasius.

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