New fish species on the menu in Sha Tin

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 April, 2006, 12:00am

A new species of freshwater fish hit dinner plates in Sha Tin last night as part of a government attempt to improve the standard of farmed fish available to shoppers.

Jade perch, a native of Australia which is being raised at five fish farms in the New Territories, went on sale at $25 a fish at the Seiyu Department Store in Sha Tin New Town Plaza.

Known scientifically as Scortum Barcoo, and in Australia as the Barcoo grunter, the fish, which has a jade-green stripe running down the length of the spine, will be limited to the five farms and the store to test the market response.

Senior Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officer Chow Wai-kueng said the fish had the highest omega 3 content - which helps strengthen and protect cells in the body - of any freshwater species. The department first brought in jade perch as fry in 2002 for trials by farmers, who supplied a limited number of adult fish to local restaurants in 2004. The fish, which has clean white flesh and a delicate flavour, proved popular with diners but importing the fry proved too expensive.

'We started to import zygote [a cell resulting from fertilisation] of the jade perch this year and have developed advanced hatching skills. The cost has been cut more than a half as a result,' said Mr Chow.

He said steaming was the best way to cook the fish because frying could destroy the omega 3 fatty acids, prized for being beneficial to the heart.

Lai Kwok-yan, chief manager of the Fish Marketing Organisation, said: 'If it is welcomed by customers, we'll expand the scale of cultivation and hopefully supply to other markets within this year.'

As proof of quality accreditation, each fish comes with an 'Accredited Fish Farm' tag attached to the tail. The tags are part of the department's Accredited Fish Farm Scheme, introduced last year to provide high-quality fish products to the public. Under the scheme, fish farms must undergo registration and monitoring procedures by the department.