Barramundi is a freshwater fish species found in tropical and semitropical regions ranging from the Persian Gulf to China, and can be found as far south as Australia as well as northern India. In Australia, it is caught in the wild and farmed for export to the global market as table fish, and some recreational fishermen also enjoy hunting it. The barramundi became popular for human consumption because it is considered a sustainable fish, with strong stocks, healthy habitat and careful management, all contributing to its longevity as a species. The fish is very widespread and shows no signs of being at risk.
Barramundi is a firm, white-fleshed fish.
These fish can get quite large, weighing up to 60 kg (132 lbs), and are very strong. The barramundi has a concave forehead, pointed head and a large jaw with large scales. Underneath, the fish is silver, while above it is green to gray, providing camouflage for most river environments. It is carnivorous, feeds on small fish and insects and has a dense and dry white pulp, which is usually eaten grilled and sautéed.
Depending on where the fish was caught and what it ate, sometimes the meat of barramundi is not so appetizing. As a result, much of what is exported for human consumption is farmed so the fish can be fed a controlled diet and disposed of before sale to prevent off-flavors from saturating the meat. Fish farming is considered more sustainable because stocks can be carefully monitored for overall health.
Barramundi are hermaphrodites, starting life as males and transitioning to females around age five. Males tend to be smaller due to their younger age. The females lay numerous eggs that will hatch in 20 hours, producing larvae that quickly transform into mature fish. The species is also catadromous, meaning it matures in fresh water and moves to intertidal zones to spawn.
It is highly sought after as a game fish due to its large size, flavor and strength. Many Australian tour companies offer barramundi fishing trips where anglers can cast or troll their prey. As with most gamefish, barramundi is usually caught and released, although there are no restrictions on taking the fish for consumption either.
When available in-store, barramundi is an excellent choice for conservation-minded consumers and also tends to be lower in mercury than some fish species. For this reason, it is recommended by many marine health and conservation organizations and is becoming much more popular in other parts of the world.