Perak is blessed with a naturally advantageous geography with pristine lakes dotting the landscape, abundant water supply and exceptional water quality, collectively contributing to the booming aquaculture industry.
In Perak, lakes derived from abandoned tin mines, the high water quality and surrounding natural environment have collectively created an excellent environment for the breeding of freshwater fishes.
65% of more than 10,000 fish farms in Perak used to be abandoned mining lakes, while the remaining 35% have been manually dug. The largest single fish farm in Perak occupies an area of 100 acres.
The monthly freshwater fish production of Perak is about 3,000 tons, half of which coming from the big farms near the Gerik Dam. This amount is 80% of the national total. 30% of the fish production is exported to neighboring Singapore and Indonesia.
Some of the farmers specialize in rearing juvenile fish. The seeds come from places like China, Taiwan and Thailand. Seeds imported include Bonito and Grass Carp from China, and Tilapia from Thailand. Due to the weather conditions in Malaysia, some of these freshwater fishes cannot be bred locally. Juvenile fish farming entails a significantly lower risk than normal fish farming, as the loss from fish dying of sickness during the growing phase is avoided.
According to Perak Fisheries Department statistics, there are 2,600 fish farmers operating in the state.
Perak Freshwater Fish Farmers Association was established in 2008, with 200 members who are mainly from Kinta Valley, such as Kampar, Ipoh, Gopeng and Tronoh. The fishes reared here include Perch, Carps, whitefish, catfish, Malaysian River catfish, Jelawat, Patin, Bonito and Tilapia.
A free range for Sturgeon
At Behrang Ulu near Tanjung Malim, Baolai International Private Limited, a joint venture between Taiwan and Malaysian capitals, established the only Sturgeon farm in Malaysia.
The European Sea Sturgeon, with a scientific name of Acipenser sturio Linnaeus, is a precious fish that can only reproduce in unpolluted mountain spring water, which is found in abundance in Perak.
Baolai sturgeon farm has an area of 3.5 acres, rearing five different breeds of sturgeon and more than 10,000 fish, exporting to Singapore and Hong Kong. Sturgeon dishes are also found in Chinese restaurants of Tanjong Malim.
Dubbed as underwater living fossil, it is one of the most nutritious fish. The eggs can be made into Caviar, which was a tribute to the emperor in the past. In the west, sampling sturgeon caviar is a luxury exclusive to the upper echelon of the society, a symbol of wealth and status.
Sturgeon can be used for many purposes and many of its innards have medicinal and cosmetic properties.
Besides consumable fish, ornamental fish is also a specialty of Perak’s aquaculture.
Perak produces ornamental fish with international standards, such as the rainbow fish and fighting fish. According to the 2013 statistics of Perak Department of fisheries, freshwater fish produced in Perak has a total networth of RM 470 million, of which 23.28%, or RM 70 million, belongs to ornamental fish.
Malaysia is also the third largest international supplier of ornamental fish after Singapore and Indonesia. Lawan Kuda, Kopisan and Bukit Merah of Perak are major fish farming area. The former two places were listen in government gazette as ornamental fish farming area.
The hometown of wild Arowana
In Perak, the unique water quality has allowed Bukit Merah to become a “hometown” for Arowana.
Bukit Merah is the only wild Arowana breeding ground in Malaysia. The Arowana farming industry here is 20 years old, with over 100 Arowana farms of various sizes.
The Bukit Merah Lake splits into two different tributaries downstream, which becomes perfect breeding ground for the fish farms. These farms supplied the livelihood of the locals.
The varieties of Arowana found here include Malaysia Cross back golden, blue base golden forehead, super red and golden forehead.
The Perak state government has establish a special industrial zone for Arowana farming, with a total area of 7,000 acre, awaiting the cooperation of fish farmer for implementation.
According to Malaysia Arowana Friendship Club, Bukit Merah produces about 100,000 Arowana per year, 90% of which are exported overseas, mostly to Northern China. Although China has a robust fish farming industry, Arowana farming has been less than successful due to the difference in quality of water.