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September 07, 2011

September Fish of the Month: U.S.-Farmed Barramundi

Barramundi September’s Fish of the Month is U.S.-farmed barramundi, and it's on Shedd's best choice list for sustainable seafood. Try our recipe for barramundi with spiced carrots and mint yogurt (find it below).

Besides having a mouthful of a name, barramundi is a delicious flaky whitefish making a big splash in the American environmental and culinary world. So why have you never heard of it? Barramundi is a river-dwelling fish native to the Indo-West Pacific region near Australia and Southeast Asia. Barramundi, pronounced bar-uh-MUHN-di, is both wild-caught and farmed in this region. Only in the last few years has barramundi made its arrival to farms and grocery stores around the United States.

The U.S. production of barramundi started in 2005, and this seafood continues to grow in popularity. The nutritionally minded especially love barramundi for its heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But with a diverse, burgeoning industry of farmed fish around the world, there many critical factors the Right Bite team considers before recommending a fish like U.S.-farmed barramundi. 

Is U.S.-farmed barramundi raised in a closed- or open-system farm?

Fish farmers are at an extraordinary point in history where they have the ability to choose how fish will be domesticated in the future. Unfortunately, many farmers have chosen open-net pens, which have serious consequences for our wild fish. Open nets can have a high rate of fish escapes, pollution and habit destruction for other marine life.

When barramundi is farmed in the United States, the fish are cultivated in a closed-system structure. This is an important method for non-native fish like barramundi because it eliminates the chance of escapes into native ecosystems. Closed-system farming also prevents the transfer of disease and parasites to other animals. 

U.S.-farmed barramundi is produced in a recirculating system, which means the water is treated and the majority of water is reused year after year. When not properly treated, fish farm waste can load our waters with a nutrient-dense runoff, eventually causing polluted waterways.

What does U.S.-farmed barramundi eat?

Barramundi is an omnivorous fish, which means it consumes both fish and plants. In the United States, barramundi consumes less fishmeal and fish oil than its carnivorous farmed counterparts, like salmon. This is critical to reduce the fishing pressure on our oceans. Ecologically important forage fish like capelin, sardines and menhaden are turned into fish meal for the growing aquaculture industry; they are also used in terrestrial animal diets. In the United States, it takes about 0.8 pounds of fish meal to grow one pound of barramundi. Of that 0.8 pound, one-third comes from the byproduct or waste of commercial herring fisheries. Now that just makes sense!

Whether it’s your first shot at cooking barramundi or you are a seasoned professional, test our newest recipe, barramundi with spiced carrots and mint yogurt, to support a farmed fish doing it right! Watch the cooking demonstration video:

Barramundi with Spiced Carrots and Mint Yogurt
Serves 4

1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
3 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
4 U.S.-farmed barramundi fillets 
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup of plain yogurt
2 tbsp. honey

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In separate bowl, toss carrots with 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin and 1 tablespoon of mint. Spread carrots in single layer on oiled pan and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cook the carrots until tender.
2. Brush fish with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat.
3. Once heated, carefully add the fillets to pan. Cook until the fish becomes lightly brown, about 3 minutes and flip it over. Cook additional 3 minutes or until fish is firm and flaky.
4. In small bowl, stir 2 tablespoons mint, cinnamon, yogurt and honey until well blended. Divide carrots and fish among 4 plates. Spoon mint yogurt over carrots and serve warm.

Posted by Brooke Havlik, conservation

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