Discovering Cream Dory
A glimpse into the journey of a Cream Dory from the harvest to your home
The farmers have their catch for the day.
A couple of hours’ drive away from Manila lies a particular farm in Lambac, Pampanga, nestled between narrow streets. A short, muddy dirt road from the main gate leads to the interior of a farm. The six-hectare property houses several fishponds, with the majority of them used to breed Tilapia. At the far end of the farm however, there is one pond that is busy with activity as six men stand in its waist-deep waters, hauling nets loaded with feisty live Pangasius. They fill a deep rectangular plastic container to the brim with the fresh fish, and subsequently weigh the catch on a scale. After they record the weight of each fish-filled container, they then start to load them into a huge truck that will bring the harvest directly to the Vitarich processing plant in Bulacan.
“The Cream Dory fillets sold in most supermarkets are imported from Vietnam where Pangasius originated from,” says Ms. Imee U. Chun, Sales and Marketing Manager of Vitarich Corporation, the company leading the propagation, farming, and distribution of Pangasius in the Philippines. “The imported variety has a really white flesh and a mellower flavor, while the ones farmed here in the Philippines have a tinge of light yellow color,” she says. “Local Dory fish has a finely textured flesh and a sweeter flavor compared to its imported counterpart.”
Pangasius was initially introduced in the Philippines for farming in the early 1980s, but it has only gained popularity among local fish growers in the past couple of years. Fish pond owners who have been in the Tilapia and Bangus farming business are slowly shifting to Pangasius farming due to its promising profitability and ease of breeding. There are now farmers raising Pangasius in the Mindanao and Visayas areas, as well as in Luzon, particularly in Pangasinan, Bulacan, and Pampanga.
Pangasius fishes are being weighed before they package and sell them.
Pangasius Vs. Tilapia
Mr. Manny Cruzada, who manages a Pangasius hatchery and farm in Apalit, Pampanga, says that Pangasius is easier to raise compared to Tilapia and Bangus because “Hindi maselan ang Pangasius. Unlike Tilapia na nagkakaproblema sa growth at nagkakasakit pag may slight change in water condition and temperature. Mas mataas ang tolerance sa tubig ng Pangasius.”
Another farm caretaker in Lambac, Pampanga, Mang Rey, narrates that he’s been involved in Tilapia farming for the past 20 years and had only tried Pangasius farming for the first time last year. That day that YUMMY visited their farm, he and his men were hauling their very first harvest of eight-month old Pangasius and were very pleased with the outcome.
Out of the 40,000 fingerlings they put in an 800-square meter pond, only a little over 200 died. “Ang Tilapia, pag tinamaan ng peste, maraming namamatay,” Mang Rey says, “Pero ang Pangasius, maski may bagyo, hindi naaapektuhan. Ang dapat lang iwasan ay yung umapaw ang fishpond para hindi sila maagos.”
Pangasius has a higher stocking density than Bangus and Tilapia. One square meter can hold up to 10 Pangasius, and because they are surface breathers, “Okay lang kahit marami sila sa pond,” adds Mang Rey. Pangasius can also tolerate low oxygen water, a condition which would otherwise cause fish kill in Bangus and Tilapia. And with its low mortality rate, Pangasius has a survival average of 85 to 90 percent.
However, while Bangus and Tilapia can be harvested after three to four months, Pangasius has to be raised in the pond for a minimum of seven to eight months before the harvest. This will give them enough time to grow to a marketable size of one to 1.2 kilos a piece, whereas a kilo of Tilapia would average about three to four pieces per kilo.
Although farmers can do partial harvests in Bangus and Tilapia farms everyday, this cannot be done with Pangasius. This is a peculiar characteristic of farm-raised Pangasius—that they have to be harvested all at the same time. “Let’s say in a one-hectare pond, nag-partial harvest ka lang ng three tons of Pangasius, pag nagpakain ka uli ng mga nandoon pa sa pond, three days silang hindi kakain. Kasi parang they remember na hinuli ’yung ibang mga kasama nila. Matampuhin itong isdang ito,” says Imee Chun.