Basa fish
The basa fish, Pangasius bocourti, is a type of catfish
Catfishes are a diverse group of ray-finned fish. Named for their prominent barbels, which resemble a cat's whiskers, catfish range in size and behavior from the heaviest and longest, the Mekong giant catfish from Southeast Asia and the second longest, the wels catfish of Eurasia, to detritivores...

 in the family Pangasiidae. Basa are native to the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 and Chao Phraya basin in Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

. These fish are important food fish with an international market. They are often labeled in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 as "basa fish" or "bocourti". In the UK, the species is known mainly as "river cobbler", with "basa" also being used on occasion. In Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, these fish are commonly marketed as "pangasius" or "panga
Panga is the common South African name for Pterogymnus laniarius, a small, ocean-dwelling fish, native to the southeast Atlantic Ocean and southwest Indian Ocean. Alternatively called "torpedo scads", they are cold-blooded with white flesh...

". Other related shark catfish
Shark catfish
The shark catfishes are a family, the Pangasiidae, of catfishes found in fresh and brackish waters across southern Asia, from Pakistan to Borneo. Among the 30-odd members of this family is the plant-eating, endangered Mekong giant catfish Pangasianodon gigas, one of the largest known freshwater...

 may occasionally be falsely labeled as basa fish, including Pangasius hypophthalmus (iridescent shark) and Pangasius pangasius
Pangasius pangasius
Pangasius pangasius or Pangash is a catfish of the Pangasiidae family, available in the Bay of Bengal....

(yellowtail catfish).


The body of a basa fish is stout and heavy. The rounded head is broader than it is long, with the blunt snout having a white band on its muzzle.

Food and spawning

Basa fish feed on plants. They spawn at the onset of flood season and the young are first seen in June, averaging about 5 cm by mid-June.


There has recently been an unsubstantiated report into high toxin, pesticide and cancer issues concerning basa from mass farming techniques on the Mekong River in Vietnam. Tests by Asda
Asda Stores Ltd is a British supermarket chain which retails food, clothing, general merchandise, toys and financial services. It also has a mobile telephone network, , Asda Mobile...

 and Tesco
Tesco plc is a global grocery and general merchandise retailer headquartered in Cheshunt, United Kingdom. It is the third-largest retailer in the world measured by revenues and the second-largest measured by profits...

 in the UK have found no trace of contaminants. Test from AQIS found trace levels of malachite green
Malachite green
Malachite green is an organic compound that is used as a dyestuff and has emerged as a controversial agent in aquaculture. Malachite green is traditionally used as a dye for materials such as silk, leather, and paper...

, but no other contaminants.

"Catfish war" in the U.S.

In 2002, the United States accused Vietnam of dumping catfish, namely Pangasius bocourti and Pangasius hypophthalmus, on the American market, charging the Vietnamese importers, who are subsidized by Vietnam's government, of unfair competition
Unfair competition
Unfair competition in a sense means that the competitors compete on unequal terms, because favourable or disadvantageous conditions are applied to some competitors but not to others; or that the actions of some competitors actively harm the position of others with respect to their ability to...

With pressures from the U.S. catfish industry, the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 passed a law in 2003 preventing the imported fish from being labelled as catfish, as well as imposing additional tariffs on the imported fish. Under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruling, only species from the family Ictaluridae
The Ictaluridae, sometimes called Ictalurids, are a family of catfish native to North America, where they are important food fish and sometimes as a sport fish. They include fish commonly known as bullheads, madtoms, channel catfish, and blue catfish....

 can be sold as true catfish. As a result, the Vietnamese exporters of this fish now label their products sold in the U.S. as basa fish or bocourti.

At the height of the "catfish war", U.S. catfish farmers and others were describing the imported catfish as an inferior product. However, Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University
The Mississippi State University of Agriculture and Applied Science commonly known as Mississippi State University is a land-grant university located in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, United States, partially in the town of Starkville and partially in an unincorporated area...

 researchers found imported basa were preferred in a taste test 3-to-1.


P. bocourti, known in Thai
Thai language
Thai , also known as Central Thai and Siamese, is the national and official language of Thailand and the native language of the Thai people, Thailand's dominant ethnic group. Thai is a member of the Tai group of the Tai–Kadai language family. Historical linguists have been unable to definitively...

 as pla mong, is the mascot
The term mascot – defined as a term for any person, animal, or object thought to bring luck – colloquially includes anything used to represent a group with a common public identity, such as a school, professional sports team, society, military unit, or brand name...

 of Nakhon Phanom Games, a regional multi-sport event
Multi-sport event
A multi-sport event is an organized sporting event, often held over multiple days, featuring competition in many different sports between organized teams of athletes from nation-states. The first major, modern, multi-sport event of international significance was the modern Olympic Games.Many...

 in central Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 in October 2006.

Basa in the UK

Basa has become fairly common in the UK under the name Vietnamese river cobbler, mainly being sold through the large supermarkets in both fresh and frozen forms. It is marketed as a cheaper alternative to traditionally popular white fish, such as cod
Cod is the common name for genus Gadus, belonging to the family Gadidae, and is also used in the common name for various other fishes. Cod is a popular food with a mild flavor, low fat content and a dense, flaky white flesh. Cod livers are processed to make cod liver oil, an important source of...

 or haddock
The haddock , also known as the offshore hake, is a marine fish distributed on both sides of the North Atlantic. Haddock is a popular food fish and is widely fished commercially....

. Young's Bluecrest
Young's Bluecrest
Young's Seafood Ltd. is a British producer and distributor of frozen, fresh, and chilled seafood, supplying approximately 40% of all the fish eaten in the United Kingdom every year. It is headquartered in Grimsby, England....

 use it in some of their frozen fish products, choosing to use the name basa instead of cobbler.

UK Trading Standards
Trading Standards
Trading Standards is the name given to local authority departments in the UK formerly known as Weights and Measures. These departments investigate commercial organisations that carry out trade in unethical ways or outside the scope of the law.-History:...

 officers have stated cobbler is being fraudulently sold as cod by some fish and chip retailers to capitalise on the large difference in the wholesale price between the two, i.e., cobbler costs less than half the price of cod. This practice was highlighted by the successful prosecution of two retailers (using DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

evidence) one in July 2009, and another in April 2010.

Kashrut of basa

The basa fish does have both fins and 'easily removable' scales, so the fish is kosher; however, catfish is not a kosher fish. Basa is more akin to the grouper family when dealing with issues of kashrut, but according to, basa is not kosher.
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