An extensive facility in Prey Veng province’s Peamro district is producing tens of thousands of fish hatchlings to support Cambodia’s aquaculture industry.

The young fish bred at the Freshwater Aquaculture Research and Development Centre (FARDeC), located in Peamro commune’s Bati village, have a far higher survival rate than those spawned in the wild and grow much faster, thanks to a precise feeding programme run by the specialists at the centre.

Thousands of freshwater fish of many species are produced here, as well as a number of other aquaculture species, to meet the demands of the Kingdom’s fish farmers.

Meng Sothai, head of the FARDeC – administered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – explains that the healthy, fast-growing fish produce better meat than farmed fish imported from neighbouring countries, thanks to the modern breeding techniques practised at the centre.

The centre covers a total area of 16ha, including various ponds for fish at different stages of growth, as well as frog and freshwater shrimp rearing facilities and equipment to incubate eggs.

Sothai tells The Post that the centre has three roles: first, to research the production of freshwater aquatic species, especially endangered local species and species with a high economic market value.

Its second focus is on the production of new fish, or breeding. The young fish are released at the national and provisional level on National Fish Day, or distributed to farmers.

Its third task is to transfer knowledge and experience to the students who intern at the facility, as well as many others who are writing theses or reports for their qualification, as well as other people who seek to gain a better understanding of the centre’s work.

“The centre’s staff are divided into two teams: the first is the research group and the second is the breeding group. Both of these teams are very experienced,” says Sothai.

“Unfortunately, it is a global trend that natural fisheries resources are declining, while consumption is increasing. To meet this demand, we have to raise more aquatic animals, but we need to ensure we balance the existing resources for long-term sustainability,” he adds.

According to Sothai, the length of time it takes for fish to mature varies from species to species, as does the amount of offspring produced.

After hatching, the young fish have different requirements, according to their species.

“In addition, successful breeding can be dependent on the time of year. In the rainy season, the tanks are less healthy, for example, although we can use pumps and supplements to keep the young fish healthy. In general, we have to choose the right time to raise each type of fish,” he says.

At present, the species which are most in demand from farmers are freshwater catfish, pra and tilapia, as well as frogs. Pra, a variety of shark catfish, is the most commonly commercially raised fish in the Kingdom, mostly in Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Kandal, Takeo and Kampong Thom provinces.

Sothai explains that artificially hatched fish have a far higher survival rate, as they are raised in an environment which lacks any natural predators.

He says the ponds do not have to be too large, with 1sqm able to support from 500 to 1,000 young fish. In his experience, the improved water quality and nutrients means the flesh of the fish is of a higher quality.

Khim Finan, undersecretary of state and spokesman for the agriculture ministry, tells The Post that Cambodia has a total of 61,727 aquaculture households with 106,522 people employed in the industry.

“The ministry supports the use of more efficient technology and principles of good hygiene, with the goal of increasing the production of fish meat by 30 per cent, in order to meet domestic demand. In 2023, aquaculture production totalled 314,000 tonnes, equivalent to one-third of the total fisheries production,” he says.

“Breeding pure freshwater fish provides many benefits to the aquaculture industry, such as ensuring the quality of climate-resilient and disease-resistant varieties. The [FARDeC] contributes to improving the livelihoods of farmers and their families by providing them with high-quality fish at low capital costs, while also training them in modern techniques,” he adds.