The milkfish is an important seafood in Southeast Asia and some Pacific Islands. Because milkfish is notorious for being much bonier than other food fish, deboned milkfish, called "boneless bangus" in the Philippines, has become popular in stores and markets.

Milkfish aquaculture first occurred around 800 years ago in the Philippines and spread in Indonesia, Taiwan and into the Pacific. Traditional milkfish aquaculture relied upon restocking ponds by collecting wild fry. This led to a wide range of variability in quality and quantity between seasons and regions. In the late seventies, farmers first successfully spawned breeding fish. However, they were hard to obtain and produced unreliable egg viability. In 1980 the first spontaneously spawning happened in sea cages. These eggs were found to be sufficient to generate a constant supply for farms.

Milkfish processing takes two forms. Traditional ways include smoking, drying and fermenting. Bottling, canning and freezing are of recent origin. There has been a steady increase in demand since 1950. In 2005, 595,000 tonnes was harvested worth USD $616 million.
There is an increasing trend toward value-added products. In recent years the possibility of using milkfish juveniles as bait for tuna long lining has started to be investigated, opening up new markets for fry hatcheries.