Happy New Year everybody!

2015 saw mass fish deaths on an unprecedented scale. From late February to mid March, beaches along some stretches of the eastern Straits of Johor were covered in the carcasses of thousands of dead fishes of various species. While the victims of previous mass mortality events were predominantly farmed fishes being raised for seafood in offshore floating cages, in 2015 a staggering proportion of the casualties were wild fishes. It was alarming and extremely distressing to witness the scale of this catastrophe – it was almost as if every fish in these waters, large and small, had been killed overnight.

Besides the impact on wild fishes, the many fish farmers in the area were hit especially hard. Many of them were already struggling to recover from mass fish deaths from previous years, and it remains to be seen how many of them will still be in business in 2016.

The culprit behind these mass deaths was reported to be Karlodinium veneficum, a toxic dinoflagellate that is usually found in low densities in the plankton, but can also form blooms that are associated with such mass deaths.

Whether these harmful algal blooms arose due to wholly natural causes or were the indirect and unintended result of human activities in the Straits of Johor, hopefully the marine ecosystems affected by the mass deaths have managed to recover since the catastrophe. And as as much as these events present a wonderful opportunity for me to gather more material for Monday Morgue, I hope that we’re spared from these disasters in 2016.

Here are 4 species of fish I found during the mass deaths at Pasir Ris in late February; they made their debut on Monday Morgue in 2015.

  • Upper Left: Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello)
  • Upper Right: Goatee Croaker (Dendrophysa russelli)
  • Lower Left: Indian Mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta)
  • Lower Right: Talang Queenfish (Scomberoides commersonnianus)

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