PacuPacu (Colossoma macropomum) are South American freshwater fish that looks like piranha but lack the sharp teeth of their carnivorous cousins. Pacu has squarer and more human-like teeth than piranha, which they use to crack open seeds and nuts on river banks.
Pacu is typically not eaten in the wild due to its vegetarian diet that consists of nuts, fruits, leaves, and aquatic vegetation. However, it has become a popular fish for aquaculture in South America including Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia. It was reported that around 200 tons of pacu are sold annually by weight in Europe alone.
In some Asian cultures, there have been reports of pacu, which are normally vegetarian, occasionally turning piscivorous and feeding on small fish. In a news report by Telegraph in 2009, a fisherman was quoted as claiming that he had been bitten while unhooking a pacu from his line.
Pacu is known by the local population of South America as "piracanjuba" or "piracatinga", names that attest to its preference for eating nuts and fruits on river banks. This vegetarian fish is usually caught with nets in rivers where it lives, unlike piranha which is usually trapped in lakes.
Fish farming of pacu in reservoirs of water bodies like dams has become a common practice in Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia. The fast-growing pacu is usually harvested at an average size of 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm) after 18 months. They are then sold to wholesale markets where they are either preserved or tinned cooked before being exported to France, Italy, and Germany. In the Americas, pacu was among several fish species introduced to help manage aquatic vegetation in reservoirs of power plants built during the 1970s energy crisis.
According to the International Game Fish Association, the world record for freshwater fish belongs to a pacu caught in 2011 by an angler fishing in Papua New Guinea. The 4-foot long pacu weighed 55 pounds and yielded 57 filets.
Contrary to popular belief, these fish aren't any more dangerous than regular piranhas. Pacu usually eats nuts, seeds, and other plant materials that fall into the water. They've been known to nibble on human flesh when hungry, but their teeth aren't nearly as sharp as piranhas'.
Global Pacu fish production
Pacu fish are native to the Amazon basin and are popular in aquaculture due to their rapid growth rate, palatability, and tolerance to a wide range of environmental conditions. Pacu is omnivorous and can reach up to 1.2m in length and 60kg in weight. They are typically farmed in earthen ponds and cages, and global production is dominated by South American countries.
The world's pacu fish production has been increasing in recent years, reaching 990,000 tonnes in 2014. This is due to the growing demand for fish as a source of protein, as well as the expansion of aquaculture operations in many countries. The top-producing countries include Brazil, Peru, Indonesia, and Colombia.
Brazil is the largest producer of pacu fish, with an estimated production of 400,000 tonnes in 2014. This is followed by Peru, with a production of approximately 160,000 tonnes. Indonesia and Colombia are the third and fourth largest producers, with estimated productions of 140,000 tonnes and 120,000 tonnes respectively.
The global pacu fish market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.5% from 2014 to 2019, reaching a value of USD 1.4 billion by 2019. The growing demand for fish as a source of protein, as well as the expansion of aquaculture operations in many countries, are the major drivers of this market growth.
The Asia-Pacific region is the largest market for pacu fish, accounting for 45% of the global demand in 2014. This is followed by Latin America and Africa, which account for 30% and 20% of the global demand respectively. The Asia-Pacific region is expected to be the fastest-growing market for pacu fish, with a CAGR of 6.5% from 2014 to 2019. This is due to the growing demand for fish in countries such as China, India, and Indonesia.