Fishing for barramundi in northern Australia isn’t for the feint-hearted. Josh Goldman knows.
Touring fish farms in a remote area that reminded him of Jurassic Park, the founder of Australis Aquaculture wanted to hook some wild barramundi, the species his company had just began farming in Massachusetts.
“I was literally on a plank, a rickety pier system, and there’s these saltwater crocodiles around -- don’t take a wrong step,” Goldman said of his trip to Hinchinbrook nearly 7 years ago.
Barramundi are a favorite of the salties, and Goldman is hoping they become a favorite of humans. He’s well on his way as his company, Australis, is making headlines across the nation, including the cover of Time with the headline: The Future of Fish.
Barramundi, also known as Asian seabass, are a tasty fish with high omega-3 content, but don’t take as much food to grow as most other species. Many of their attributes make them perfect for farming … and eating. They are a sustainable species, Goldman says, one that will revolutionize fish farming and help feed the world population that’s fast approaching 7 billion.
Goldman also developed a way to farm barramundi in a closed system where he’s not polluting. Filters take out fish waste and Australis donates it as fertilizer to farmers near its Turners Fall facility. So, it is being touted as a clean method with little environmental footprint.
Dr. Oz has gotten on the barramundi bandwagon, saying the white meat is light, flaky and delicious. “Free of mercury, but full of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3s, barramundi is a shoe-in for one of my top 5 superfoods.”
Australians have long known about the quality of barramundi, both in the fight and the flesh.
“They’ an amazing sport fish,” Goldman said. “They have an intense strike. If they’re hungry, there’s a thwap.”
Then there are probably several jumps and some powerful runs. Australians head to Queensland impoundments where they seek trophy “metreys,” or barramundi more than a meter long. The IGFA world record is a 98.3-pounder caught from Lake Monduran in 2010. While larger fish have been netted, anglers still seek to break the 100-pound mark.
Anglers from around the world head near Darwin in the Northern Territory once-a-year for the freshwater runoff, where some of the greatest barramundi catches occur. The saltwater barramundi are considered better eating than their freshwater brothers, which rate highly at 8 out of 10.
While much smaller, the farmed barramundi are fed a designer diet to produce that cleaner taste, Goldman said, and oils added in the feed before harvest boosts omega-3s. The species spawns in the sea and grows in brackish water before heading up rivers, making them a hardy fish, all factors that led to their selection.
“It has a really interesting life history,” Goldman said. “It spawns in oceans. It’s lunar spawning that we can trigger year round. Then it swims into river systems and eats lower on the food chain. They’re very tough.”
Apparently Goldman found the perfect fish to farm, and farm out. His products have been in fresh seafood cases of many U.S. Asian markets for years, all from the Turners Fall facility. Australis also has a farm in Vietnam, where frozen products are made. Filets and Barramundi Steamables under “Australis: The Better Fish” line are available in more than 4,000 North American retail outlets.
While barramundi are widely distributed from northern Australia to Southeast Asia to the Persian Gulf, it might be easier to catch them at your local market. For more information, check out TheBetterFish.com
If you are fortunate enough to be in their range, catching one is a thrill, Goldman guarantees, just watch out for the crocs.