DAGUPAN CITY—The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has introduced “red pacu,” an exotic aquarium fish, as an edible variety that could also help in controlling the growth of water hyacinths that clog rivers.
The BFAR research center here on Wednesday held a cooking festival that featured recipes of red pacu, locally known as “tambaqui,” as part of the activities for the fishery week celebration.
Westly Rosario, BFAR center chief, said red pacu (Colossoma bidens), a native of the Amazon River in South America, was introduced in the Philippines as an aquarium fish.
He said red pacu is an herbivorous species and farmers can raise these by feeding them with grass, gabi or malunggay leaves, flowers and plants, including those rejected by carabaos, and even leftovers.
“It is easy to breed and easy to grow. And since it eats anything, we can produce fish protein without the expensive commercial feed. This is a good alternative to bangus (milkfish), which is expensive to produce as 60 percent of the expenses [go to] commercial feed,” he said.
Among the dishes prepared from red pacu were sisig, kilawin, caldereta, kare-kare and even burger. There were also steamed pacu with lemongrass, “pacurry” (red pacu curry), red pacu in chili tomato sauce, Hawaiian red pacu pizza, pan de pacu, pacu-loco wrapped in taro leaves and red pacu pastel.
Rosario said the fish could be introduced in rivers to control water hyacinths as it could eat the water plants that clog waterways and cause flooding.
“We gathered water hyacinths in a river and put them in a pond. After a week, all the hyacinths were gone, eaten by the fish,” he said.
The BFAR said red pacu can grow to .75 meter long (2.46 feet) in the wild.
However, tests showed the red pacu did not reproduce in captivity and had to be injected with hormones to enable them to breed.
Nevafe Muyalde, BFAR researcher on the species, said several trials were conducted to make the fish reproduce but it was only through hormonal injections that red pacu was able to produce eggs.
The breeding of red pacu at the BFAR center started five years ago when a private collector donated 10 pieces of the fish.
Rosario said a kilogram of red pacu can grow to a foot long in a year. “It is best eaten at year old because its flesh becomes hard when it becomes older,” he said.
Except for its teeth structure, the red pacu closely resembles the highly carnivorous piranha.
“This is why it was difficult to import red pacu because it looked like piranha, which is banned in the Philippines,” Rosario said. He said the red pacu’s teeth are not sharp and pointed like those of the piranha’s. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon