Sunday, April 30, 2006

What Prawn Is That Again?

I was totally flabbergasted after reading The Star Metro article above yesterday. Newspapers always publish articles full of wrong information like the one above and get away with it without their readers knowing the truth. I find that it usually happens to articles containing scientific terms or something new or too complex for the layman to understand and the journalist do not bother to check their facts in their articles are indeed facts.

Big plans for tiger prawn hatchery


MAJUIKAN Sdn Bhd (Majuikan) which runs a tiger prawn hatchery in Pantai Merdeka, near Sungai Petani, plans to sell two million tiger prawn fry to the domestic market this year.

Its operation manager Mohd Zaini Baharudin said the hatchery was now supplying some 500,000 fry to the local market.

"We use the latest technology within a clean and hygienic environment to ensure a high survival rate," he told The Star.

He said Majuikan was also getting consultancy services from the Fisheries Department's tiger prawn culture farm in Pulau Sayak near here.

Majuikan now had 22 breeding tanks with a good oxidation system at its feed mill, he said.

Mohd Zain said each tank had a capacity to hold 25,000 fry.

Each 45-day old fry is sold at between 4sen to 5.5sen.

He said the fry was highly sought after in the local market, particularly by tiger prawn culture operators from Perak, Negri Sembilan and Kedah.

He said locals who wished to buy the fry could contact him at the prawn feed mill in Pantai Merdeka, telephone 04-4375039 or e-mail

After reading the heading, I was expecting an article on tiger prawns. After looking at the photo however, I knew it was going to be one of those articles that contains incorrect facts. The photo clearly showed a man holding a Malaysian giant freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii), not a tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon). I thought maybe they just simply took a photo of any prawn to accompany the photo, so I checked the caption. I was expecting it to say the man was holding a Malaysian giant freshwater prawn but it stated tiger prawn instead! Going through the article, the mistakes became more glaring.

Usually, I find scientific names in newspaper articles not italicised or the first character of both words to be either capitalised or non-capitalised. By right, only the first character of the first word should be capitalised. Read more about the Binomial nomenclature to understand how scientific names should be written. This article however, had no such errors since the journalist didn't mention the scientific names. The problem was that they got the wrong prawn!

What gave the mistake away immediately was the prawn in the photo. See the long arms of the prawn that the man is holding to? In the case of tiger prawns, they do not have such long arms or pereiopods. The Malaysian giant freshwater prawn or better known as udang galah however is very well-known for having such long arms. Please do not mistaken lobsters (udang karang) with udang galah. One is freshwater and another is marine. They look entirely different too. The understand the anatomy of a decapod, refer to this article.

Macrobrachium rosenbergii
The Malaysian Giant Freshwater Prawn (udang galah)

Penaeus monodon
The Giant Tiger Prawn (udang harimau)

After reading the article, it was clear they were referring to the Malaysian giant freshwater prawn and not the tiger prawn. You see, the larvae cycle of the tiger prawn is only 10-12 days. This means that they can be sold after just about 12 days. Why then would they want to hold on to the fry (the right term being post-larvae) until it is 45 days old before being sold? That would be totally silly! The Malaysian giant freshwater prawn however requires 30-45 days to reach the stage of post-larvae (PL). The price of each fry also gave away their mistake. Tiger prawn PLs cost about 1 to 2 sen compared to 4 to 5.5 sen stated in the article which is about the right price for udang galah PLs. I should know since I worked with prawns for my first degree.

Can you identify which one is the tiger prawn?

Apart from the scientific point of view, the wrong information in this article not only misinforms the public about the prawns but will also have a grave economic implications. How so, you ask? Well, the article is clearly meant to promote the operations of the hatchery and to market their PL to interested farmers. If they have promoted the wrong prawn, how will it attract the right target group? Those who wish to acquire udang galah fries fry might not call up and those looking for udang harimau fries fry will call up and be disappointed that they contacted the wrong place. Just imagine the poor guy having to answer calls and reply emails regarding tiger prawns when he was marketing the Malaysian giant freshwater prawn! All this due to the article stating the wrong prawn.

Of course, this mistake could really be due to many various reasons. It could be that the journalist didn't do his/her job when writing up the article. It could be that the operations manager was feeding the journalist wrong information. It could be that the editor didn't bother to check the article properly. Whatever the reason is, the information in the article is wrong and the person that wrote the article along with the editor that gave the green light for the article to go to print are both guilty of misinforming the public. This mistake could have been avoided if everyone did their homework. This is the reason why newspapers should seriously consider hiring Scientific Editors to go through these type of articles.

Related article:

(pictures from FAO and various sources of the Internet)


  1. lol. u have a point. they need someone to at least reduce those mistakes. i mean it could really confuse kids reading the paper. news should be factually correct in every sense.

  2. yup, even i was confused when reading the article at first and i'm someone who could tell which prawn was which! :P

  3. this is not the first time! and science isn't the only thing they screw up...most of the times silly grammatical errors pop up here and there. editor asleep?

    anyways, u make so much noise about mistakes, i spotted a wee mistake in your write up too...
    in this sense, 'fry' is plural form. if u say 'fries' it means another thing. sorry for pointing it out ;)

  4. thanks for pointing that out... :P

    it's true newspapers are full of grammatical and spelling errors but i'm more forgiving for those type of errors as long as the context and facts are still correct.

    like my mistake that you pointed out, it's bound to happen to anyone and i accept that but when you do not bother to check your facts, then you are not doing your readers any favours by providing them wrong information.

    like when i check assignments and all that, i don't mind the grammatical errors as long as i understand what they are trying to say. i will correct their grammatical errors but i will most likely not penalise them as i'm more concerned about the scientific aspect of their reports rather than their prowess in a certain language. i'll leave that to their language classes. :)

  5. That one is clearly a Macrobrachium rosenbergii. Mistake like this is quite common. Hey when you are going to blog again?

  6. This article was written FOUR years ago! Didn't really expect anyone to go through it and even comment after so long.

    True, I've not been updating my blog much of late being bogged down with my research work. Thanks for dropping by and showing interest in my blog. I really do not know when I will be able to blog again.

  7. I like for that. If you can give information.... for your blog for me.