Thousand of dead fishes, including catfish and puffer fish, washed up at Pasir Ris beach on Feb 28, 2015. Photo: Sean Yap’s Facebook page

Worry about marine life mounts as more fish die
By Neo Chai Chin, 3rd March 2015;

As fish carcasses continued to wash up on Singapore’s shores yesterday, marine enthusiasts voiced concern about the amount and variety of wild fish and other animal species affected.

They spoke of the need to boost the resilience of the marine ecosystem as some posted on social media that shore walks in recent days have allowed them glimpses of fish species they had never seen.

Fish farmers, meanwhile, continued to add up their losses from the mass fish deaths that caught many by surprise over the weekend.

“It’s kind of sad that the average Singaporean is finding out about our rich marine biodiversity only after they die and get washed up,” said environmental biology undergraduate Sean Yap, who blogged about his friends seeing a large Hollow-cheeked Stonefish (Synanceia horrida) he had not seen before.

Ms Ria Tan, who runs the blog Wild Shores of Singapore, surveyed nine locations in north-eastern Singapore yesterday and posted on her blog: “The large numbers of wild and farmed fishes that I saw … over many locations on our north-eastern shores is worrying. I hope scientists and authorities are looking into the extent of the mass fish deaths, what is causing this and what steps can be taken to improve the health of the ecosystems to avoid a recurrence of such mass deaths.”

Since 2009, Singapore has experienced several episodes of mass fish deaths. Last year, a plankton bloom and low levels of dissolved oxygen led to more than 160 tonnes of fish lost.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai said researchers could consider delving into past research and data collected. “We also need to be concerned if climate change is leading to these events on a more regular (basis) in the future,” he told TODAY, noting that from photos posted, the scale of recent deaths was the largest he had seen.

He said that while red tides, or algal bloom, usually pass within two weeks, there could be a more lasting impact on the ecosystem due to the roles played by different varieties of fish. “I’m a bit worried for birds like some of our Sea Eagles and Otters that depend on fish for their food,” said Mr Subaraj.

Dr Lena Chan, director of the National Parks Board’s (NParks) National Biodiversity Centre, said NParks is concerned about the potential impact of this incident on marine biodiversity here. “We are consulting with other agencies and will carry out further investigations if necessary,” she said.

The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said over the weekend that going by fish samples collected from affected farms, the fish had died from gill damage caused by plankton. It said laboratory tests conducted so far have not detected marine biotoxins in the fish.

Reeling from the wipeout of his Red Snapper (Lutjanus sp.) and Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) worth about S$700,000, fish farmer Timothy Hromatka said he would have to look into relocating his farm, which is off Pulau Ubin. He had done an overall water quality assessment as part of organic certification of his farm — which he received last month — and the results were good. The assessment covered areas such as heavy metal content, but not the types of plankton found, he said.

He praised the AVA’s efforts and felt great opportunities remain in aquaculture here, but said the ecosystem needs to improve. For instance, when estuaries are converted to reservoirs, mangroves and other vegetation that serve as buffers to regulate nutrient balance in the seawater are lost, making the ecosystem more susceptible to disturbance, he said.

Meanwhile, a fish farm has resorted to crowdfunding to stay afloat. Ah Hua Kelong, which said it lost 80 per cent of its fish last Saturday and is hoping to raise US$20,000 (S$27,300) to help pay expenses for the next three months, had raised US$8,391 on Indiegogo as at 10.30pm yesterday.

A more immediate issue in the coming days is the rotting of dead marine life, said Mr Subaraj, who suggested that young children and older people should avoid contact with the dead fish.

Mr Alvin Tan, 33, who goes to Pasir Ris Park about once a month with his family, said he was aware of the mass fish deaths. As a precaution, the businessman ensures his children do not “go down to the water and beaches”.

Source: TODAY

1. Workers showing the dead Pompano and Red Snapper at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach yesterday. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton.
2. Workers showing the dead Pompano and Red Snapper at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach on Feb 28, 2015. The fish at the fish farms off Changi have been found dead.
3. Dead Snappers (mostly Pompano in this photo though) at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach on Feb 28, 2015.
4. Workers showing the dead Sea Bass at a kelong. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton.
5. Workers looking at dead fish at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach on 28 February 2015.. Lab tests conducted so far did not detect biological toxins in the fish, and fish from local farms remain safe to eat, an AVA spokesman said.
6. Dead fish were also seen along the Pasir Ris shoreline.
7. The dead fish, believed to have come from the wild, washed ashore along Pasir Ris beach.
Photos by Kevin Lim

Mass fish deaths overnight hit Changi farmers hard
By Kash Cheong, 1st March 2015;

Thousands of fish have died in coastal farms off Changi, in a repeat of last year’s nightmare for farmers.

Farmers woke up yesterday morning to the sight of their fish floating belly up – the mass deaths had occurred through the night, so they had no opportunity to try to save their fish.

Dead fish were also seen along the Pasir Ris shoreline.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton. Lab tests conducted so far did not detect biological toxins in the fish, and fish from local farms remains safe to eat, an AVA spokesman said.

At around the same period last year, 160 tonnes of fish died suddenly, also after being poisoned by plankton, and the 39 affected fish farms lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Yesterday, some despairing farmers told The Sunday Times that they hope to get more support and training in modern farming methods that can minimise pollution and bacteria growth, particularly since the authorities are encouraging the trade to help boost Singapore’s self-sufficiency in food production.

AVA had advised farmers to take precautions since Feb 16, when there were elevated plankton levels detected in the East Johor Strait.

But the overnight deaths took most by surprise.

“I thought I was prepared this year. I even had aerated tanks to save the fish if a few started dying,” said fish farmer Timothy Hromatka, 42, who studied marine biology.

“But it was too late,” said Mr Hromatka, who lost most of his fish.

Fish farmer Phillip Lim, 53, noting that a few fish had started dying as early as mid-February, added dejectedly: “That was just the ‘appetiser’. Friday night was the ‘main course’.”

The former president of the Singapore Marine Aquaculture Cooperative estimates that almost 50 farms were affected this time round.

“It could be worse than last year. This year, it looks like more fish died and the wild fish also died,” added Mr Lim, who estimates his losses at more than $50,000. He reared popular species such as Sea Bass (Barramundi) (), Snapper (Lutjanus sp.) and Pomfret (Snubnose Pompano) (Trachinotus blochii).

Fish farmer Daniel Wee, 40, is in the same predicament.

He had received tens of thousands of dollars from the AVA to kick-start his fish farm again after last year’s mass deaths wiped out his stock, and spent another $20,000 on fish feed. But yet again, most of his 70,000 fish were wiped out. “It’s a really, really tough business now,” said Mr Wee, who estimates he lost $100,000.

“We need to learn new methods to take local fish farming to the next level.”

Source: The Straits Times

Tentative identifications:

  1. Barramundi (Lates calcarifer)
  2. Goatee Croaker (Dendrophysa russelli)
  3. Bearded Worm Goby (Taenioides cirratus)
  4. Barramundi
  5. Green Chromide (Etroplus suratensis), Toadfish (F. Batrachoididae, Wrasse (F. Labridae)
  6. Decorated Ponyfish (Nuchequula gerreoides)
  7. Green Chromide, Toadfish, Striped Eeltail Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)

Reporting from Seletar Dam facing Johor side. Unusually strong pungent smell from the sea got my curiosity as I was riding past this stretch.

Along the shores was a zone of 2 metres with dead horseshoe crabs (F. Limulidae), Mangrove Whipray (Himantura walga), Flower Crab (Portunus pelagicus), Grouper (Epinephelus sp.), Sand Whiting (Sillago sp.), Green Chromide (Etroplus suratensis), Spotted Scat (Scatophagus argus), Barramundi (Lates calcarifer), Toadfish (F. Batrachoididae), shrimps and huge colonies of marine bristleworms (Polychaeta).

Source: Benjamin Li Facebook

(This is Part 3 of a 3-part photo set)

What is killing fishes at Pasir Ris?
By Ria Tan, 25th February 2015;

I headed out in the afternoon to see if dead fishes were washing up at Pasir Ris Park beach.

There was a huge dead barracuda, and a few other large dead fishes. I didn’t see many dead farm fishes. Dead wild fishes were also reported over the last two days at Sembawang and Changi. The risks of fish deaths are rising in the weeks ahead as there will be no good spring tide to flush the waters around Pasir Ris and Pulau Ubin until April.

I checked out the western side of Pasir Ris today, the same stretch I checked three days ago on 22 Feb (Sat). Alas, today I came too late and the cleaner had already cleaned the high water tide line for the day. So I only checked the low water line of the most recent tide.

I also surveyed a stretch of beach wasn’t cleaned yet. So I could check the high water tide line for today. Here, I saw a few very crispy large dead fishes.

I also surveyed the western stretch of shoreline that is outside the Pasir Ris Park proper and thus is not cleaned at all. Here, I saw some really large dead fishes.

Read More

Source: Wild Shores of Singapore

(Photo from Utusan Online)

Malaysia: Caged Fish Entrepreneurs In Dungun Lose RM500,000 After Fish Die Of Poisoning
24th November 2014;

Five breeders of caged siakap (Barramundi) (Lates calcarifer) fish in Kampung Tebing Tembah Paka here lost almost RM500,000 after their fish died from suspected poisoning.

They claimed the incident from Nov 16 caused all their fish to die, believed to be from disposal of waste from a nearby factory.

Jamilah Yahaya, 37, who has run this fish breeding business with her husband, Mohd Zawawi Sidik, 43, for nine years, said the incident had caused her a huge loss.

“When I arrived at the cages, I saw about 100 tonnes of the fish which weighed between 800 grammes to eight kilogrammes had died and were floating in the water,” she told reporters here.

All the breeders lodged reports at the Paka Police Station, the Department of Environment and the District Fisheries Officer.

Source: Bernama

Barramundi (Sea Bass) (Lates calcarifer)
Changi, 14th February 2014

This Barramundi likely originated from the fish farms situated off the northeastern coast of mainland Singapore; massive numbers of fishes being raised in these aquaculture facilities died during the mass mortality event which took place in the eastern Straits of Johor in early February.

Fish deaths a double whammy
By Melissa Lin, 16th February 2014;

Business at Ms Noven Chew’s two coastal fish farms was already bad.

Since last year, the 37-year-old has been facing stiff competition from Malaysian farmers who sold their fish here at prices cheaper than she can afford to sell her produce.

During Chinese New Year came an even bigger blow which is set to sink her business. Almost 7,000 fish – nearly her entire stock – died within a span of one week.

The five tonnes of dead fish included Sea Bass (Barramundi) (Lates calcarifer), Tiger Grouper (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus) and Mouse Grouper (Humpback Grouper) (Cromileptes altivelis), which can fetch between $80 and $100 per kg, she said.

The losses cost her $15,000. And if the fish had grown to their maximum size, their worth could have as much as doubled, she estimated.

Others were also not spared the sudden mass deaths – 39 farms in the East and West Johor Strait lost around 160 tonnes of fish.

That is around 3 per cent of what local farms produced in 2012, according to Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) figures.

Last Thursday, AVA attributed the deaths to low levels of dissolved oxygen and a plankton bloom due to hot weather and high tides being at their lowest levels.

Signs that something was amiss began showing a few days before the start of Chinese New Year late last month, said Ms Chew.

Neighbouring fish farmers told her that their Coral Trout (Plectropomus sp.) – which she does not rear – were dying. A check in the waters around her farms found that fish were avoiding the area.

As a safety precaution, she moved a few hundred of her giant groupers into mussel nets. Mussels (Perna viridis) eat plankton and act as a filter, she said.

They survived, but she did not have enough mussel nets to save her other fish.

Ms Chew’s losses could have been worse if she had not diversified her business following a plankton bloom in December 2009, when 25 tonnes of fish worth $70,000 died in her farms.

After that setback, she and her business partner, Singapore Marine Aquaculture Cooperative chairman Phillip Lim, decided to rear lobsters (F. Palinuridae). Their farms now have more than 10,000 of the crustaceans, which were unaffected by the recent deaths.

“We didn’t want to rear so many fish because the price of local fish was dropping,” Ms Chew added.

Sea bass from Malaysia can be bought for the retail price of as low as $5 a kilogram, but for local fish farmers, it costs $8 just to rear the same amount of fish, she said.

The Institute of Technical Education graduate had previously worked as a retail assistant, a wonton noodle seller and a chicken rice seller.

The divorcee went into the fish farming business in 2008, thinking it would allow her more time with her daughter, now 12.

A year later, she sold her four-room flat in Sembawang for $350,000, and invested the entire sum into her business. Now she lives on one of her farms – each of which sits on 0.5ha of sea area off the coast of Changi – while her daughter lives with her former mother-in-law.

Ms Chew owns the farms but pays an annual licence fee of $850 for each of them. She declined to reveal how much she earns from farming.

Last Thursday, Minister of State for National Development Mohamad Maliki Osman said farmers affected by the recent mass deaths do not have to worry about missing mandated productivity targets. Each year, fish farms must produce 17 tonnes of fish for every 0.5ha of space to keep their licences.

But this is cold comfort to Ms Chew, who does not have any savings and may have to head to the mainland to find a way to support herself and her daughter.

“I’ll have to find a part-time job outside. I want to support the national food security efforts, but how can I do so if I can’t even support my own family?”

Source: The Sunday Times (Mirror)