BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) is calling for investors to establish more hatcheries in the sultanate in a bid to boost the output of Brunei’s aquaculture industry.

In an interview on the sidelines of the opening of the 15th Legislative Council meeting, MPRT minister YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong said that there are several areas in the hatcheries sector that needed improvement, particularly in freshwater aquaculture.

“In order for the country’s aquaculture industry to grow, we need facilities that utilise advanced hatchery technologies. This requires much expertise and investment, which is why now we are looking at other countries that have employed these technologies,” he told The Scoop on Thursday.

He added that advanced aquaculture technology used by foreign companies could be beneficial in boosting output and self-sufficiency.

YB Dato Hj Ali explained that hatcheries are crucial for the aquaculture industry’s growth, acting as the lifeblood of the industry by developing better quality products through broodstock or selective breeding.

“The hatcheries sector for the country’s marine aquaculture such as sea bass, grouper and blue shrimp are doing quite well, but the hatcheries of other areas [in freshwater aquaculture] like tiger prawns and giant freshwater prawns are not developed enough.”

MPRT minister YB Dato Hj Ali calls for more technology-based aquaculture to boost output and meet self-sufficiency target. Photo: Infofoto

Currently Brunei is one of only two countries in the world that commercially produce and export blue shrimp, the other being New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific.

Golden Corporation, one of the country’s leading producers of blue shrimp, already has an integrated value chain, including a broodstock development centre and shrimp fry hatchery.

The company has already set its sights on exporting blue shrimp to the EU market.

YB Dato Ali said there is huge market potential if Brunei expands production of tiger prawns and giant freshwater prawns (known locally as udang galah), but more hatcheries need be established, with only one giant freshwater prawn hatchery in the country.

The minister added that Brunei has an abundance of sites that can be used to build hatcheries, but he stressed that the country needs more expertise in the potentially complex process of rearing shrimp or prawn fry.

“As the fry go through different levels of maturity, they have different requirements in terms of the water salinity or feed, so this must be handled with care.”

Brunei’s fisheries sector has grown at an average rate of 5.15 per cent per annum over the last 20 years, from the $43 million in 1998 to the $112 million in 2017. The catch sector represents about 75 percent of overall fisheries output.

Over the last six years, aquaculture has shown immense growth, with the industry seeing a 440 percent increase in output, growing from 302 tonnes ($3 million) in 2011 to 1,632 tonnes ($17 million) in 2017. 

Acting Director of the Fisheries Department, Mariani Hj Sabtu, said they will also be opening up new aquaculture sites for both offshore and land-based farming, as well as an oyster farming site and processing plants.

The department is keen on strengthening the industry’s output in a more “hands-on capacity”, she said in an email interview.

The department is also urging operators to export their produce overseas, Mariani said, and go beyond the sultanate’s small domestic market.

“There will always be an ebb and flow [in terms of market demand]. A product may be performing well in 2019, but that might not be the case in 2020. So what do you do? You develop new products.”