Originating in Southeast Asia, the Basa Fish are an incredible species in terms of aquaculture. They are very hardy and can survive harsh conditions and in terms of taste, are similar to Tilapia and Sole - two fish that are very popular for not tasty too "fishy."
Yet, due to these advantages, the quality of most Basa Fish is dubious at best, and many believe practices like those often used in raising Basa aid in giving aquaculture a bad name.
- Hardiness - As mentioned in the intro, Basa is an incredibly hardy fish. One of the main difficulties in aquaculture is monitoring oxygen levels. The bigger your fish get, the more oxygen they take in, leaving less for their friends. With most species, low dissolved oxygen can lead to very high levels of fish stress, if not death. Basa, on the other hand, have developed the ability to come to the surface and breath air if their gills aren't providing them enough oxygen. This one amazing feature allows farmers to truly maximize their space and grow as much fish as possible without fear of losing any to oxygen deprivation.
- Taste - Some cultures love seafood more than others. In East Asia, seafood products are desired for their strong flavors. In the West, though, the majority of eaters tend to avoid seafood that tastes too strongly of the sea. Therefore some of the most popular fish for the mass markets (think the Fish Filet sandwich) are white-fleshed and relatively tasteless, in that they are a protein vehicle for whatever flavors they are cooked with. While seafood connoisseurs may throw their arms up in dismay, the fish producers are always looking for suitable replacements in this niche. Cod was first, but it was fished out. Currently Haddock and Sole are being fished in large quantities near Alaska, but they may not last. Aquaculture has given us Tilapia and now the Basa fish, as well.
- Price - One of the biggest problems in trying to introduce a new fish into the market is marketing. People are inherently mistrustful of trying new things, especially when they seem very foreign. As reported above, the popularity of Basa fish is growing globally, with a strong base in Southeast Asia, and increasingly in the Western World. One of the main ways it has become so popular are the very low prices farmers can afford to sell them at.
- No Oversight - The Basa Fish' greatest advantage is also its greatest flaw. Because they are so hardy and can grow in almost any condition, farmers raise them in almost any condition. Some reports of the Basa originally becoming popular as fish that would process the effluent that came from ponds located under outhouses... Because of this, there are reports of Basa making individuals very ill. Due to explosive demand and very little oversight, farmers are largely left to their own devices to bring these fish to market. Without anyone peering over their shoulder, these farmers reportedly can get away with raising Basa fish in pretty disgusting conditions, with the customer at the super market being none the wiser.
- "Catfish Wars" - America currently imports over 90% of its seafood. Aquaculture here is tiny compared to its prevalence worldwide and stands as our best chance to cut down that trade deficit. One of the biggest challenges to domestic aquaculture, though, is foreign competition. In the mid 2000's US catfish farmers waged a "Catfish War" with foreign producers of similar fish like the Basa. Importers were labeling Basa fish as American catfish and then undercutting domestic prices, driving many farmers out of business. The dispute has largely been settled, but not before dealing a major blow to the budding US aquaculture industry.
- Environmental Sustainability - The Basa fish shares in many of the critiques that falls upon much of low-tech aquaculture, namely the terrible tole it can take on the environment. In a push for short-term profits, many farmers raise fish in areas with little water circulation. This allows the fish waste to pile up and eventually lead to mass algae blooms, killing all aquatic life by absorbing all of the oxygen. These ponds are then abandoned and new ones are made, often by cutting down wild jungles or mangrove forests (in the case of salt water fish/shellfish). Additionally, it is unknown how widespread the use of antibiotics are in the raising of Basa fish. As these ponds are often connected to the water table, these medications can leach into the greater environment, playing havoc on the local microbiology.