1. I went to Lim Chu Kang Jetty at about 10pm at high tide and there were some dead fishes clustered at the jetty.
  2. More of the dead fishes at Lim Chu Kang Jetty.
  3. Some look like Milkfish, others look like sea bass?
  4. At around 10.30am today, a concerned nature lover shared sightings of what looked like hundreds of dead fishes floating in Sungei Buloh Besar river with the outgoing tide.
  5. Photo of hundreds of dead fishes taken from Platform 1 at Sungei Buloh facing the fish farms nearby, shared by a concerned nature lover.
  6. Most of the dead fishes documented by the concerned nature lover looked like this and were about the same size.
  7. By the time I got to Sungei Buloh at around 3pm, the tide had already fallen and most of the floating dead fishes washed out of the river. There were some dead fishes stranded on the shore from the mid to low water mark.
  8. I checked out new Sungei Buloh extension (Kranji Nature Trail) and there were some dead fishes scattered along the route.
  9. Most of the dead fishes looked like this and were about the same size.
  10. At around 10.30pm, I stopped by Kranji Dam and also saw a few dead fishes there.

I saw some dead fishes at Lim Chu Kang Jetty tonight.

Earlier this morning at around 10.30am today, a concerned nature lover shared sightings of what looked like hundreds of dead fishes floating into Sungei Buloh Besar with the incoming tide.

I only managed to get there around 3pm and the tide had already gone down. So I saw only some dead fishes at Sungei Buloh Besar as well as the Kranji extension.

Most of the dead fishes were about the same size and look like the Milkfish (Chanos chanos) farmed by the largest fish farm in that area.

Most of the wild fishes seemed alright although there were some Archerfishes (Toxotes sp.) gasping at the water surface at the Main Bridge.

I will check the entire shore again tomorrow.

You CAN make a difference: Dead Fish Alert!

Please help me monitor dead fishes washing up on the Johor Straits. Please let me know if you see large numbers (more than 10) especially of large dead fishes (more than 20cm long) washing up on the northern shores such as Pulau Ubin, Lim Chu Kang, Sungei Buloh, Kranji, Woodlands Waterfront, Sembawang, Punggol, Lorong Halus, Pasir Ris, Changi.

There are too many shores for me to personally check, so I really appreciate any info or photos that you can share. Thank you!

Source: Ria Tan Facebook

Besides Milkfishes, one of the dead fishes photographed at Sungei Buloh is a Grey Mullet (F. Mugilidae), likely a Flathead Grey Mullet (Mugil cephalus), which is also raised by the fish farms off the coast.

Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor)
Lim Chu Kang, 17th December 2015

This Changeable Lizard carcass was impaled on barbed wire. It’s possibly that it had been caught by a Shrike, which are known to use thorns and barbed wire to hold prey in place while smaller chunks of flesh are ripped off and swallowed. This is also a way to cache food, especially if the prey item is too large to be consumed in one sitting. Three species of Shrikes are known from Singapore, the Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach) is a resident breeder here, whereas the Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus) and Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) are migratory species that appear in Singapore during the migration season.

Photograph by Erwin Chan

Striped Keelback (Xenochrophis vittatus) eating Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)

Location, date and time: Singapore Island, Jalan Bahtera in compound of Sarimbun Scout Camp; 9 December 2014; around 1600 hrs.

Observation: A Striped Keelback of about 70 cm total length was found freshly dead and in the middle of swallowing an Asian Toad. The accompanying picture shows the anterior part of the dead snake with the hind limbs of the toad sticking out of its mouth.

Remarks: The Striped Keelback is an introduced species in Singapore where it inhabits rural and suburban areas. It is known to feed on frogs and small fishes (Baker & Lim, 2012: 114). The present observation confirms that it also eats toads. The cause of the snake’s death is unknown.

References:

  • Baker, N. & K. K. P. Lim, 2012. Wild Animals of Singapore. A Photographic Guide to Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians and Freshwater Fishes. Updated edition. Draco Publishing & Distribution Pte. Ltd. and Nature Society (Singapore).

Source: Singapore Biodiversity Records 2015: 55

Dead marine life washed up ashore along Pasir Ris Beach. Photo: Robin Choo

The science behind the fish deaths
By Neo Chai Chin, 17th March 2015;

Up to 600 tonnes of fish from 55 farms here have been lost because of an algal bloom in recent weeks. A plankton bloom last year cost 53 farms about 500 tonnes of fish.

Senior Minister of State (National Development) Maliki Osman told Parliament last week that the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will help farmers develop contingency plans to reduce losses in future episodes. The AVA will not impose a minimum production requirement on affected farms this year, he added.

Dr Maliki, who was speaking during the annual session to scrutinise his ministry’s budget, also pointed out the need to better understand the science behind the phenomenon, adding that the AVA is working with various agencies — the National Environment Agency, National Parks Board, water agency PUB and the National University of Singapore’s Tropical Marine Science Institute — to study the relationship between plankton blooms and fish deaths.

This is a timely announcement.

Episodes of plankton bloom have occurred in Singapore since 2009, but there is still a dearth of science — at least in the public domain — on this natural occurrence, leading to unanswered questions.

For instance, were the causes of fish deaths in the West Johor Strait off Lim Chu Kang (which occurred two weekends ago) and the East Johor Strait off Pasir Ris (which occurred three weekends ago) different? How have the plankton bloom episodes over the years, and species involved, differed? Is a more sophisticated system of water monitoring needed?

Contributing factors suggested by the public, such as the damming of Punggol Waterway and lack of water flow due to the Causeway, also deserve answers.

WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

The AVA has said preliminary findings point to the Karlodinium veneficum species of algae behind the East Johor Strait bloom. But some nuances in the narrative that farmers who suffered the heaviest losses did not take precautionary measures early enough need fleshing out.

The authority sent an alert to farmers on Feb 16 and 17 informing them of elevated plankton levels and advised them to deploy canvas bags, harvest their fish early to cut losses and transfer stock to unaffected areas.

Farmers said the early warning was good. Many had canvas bags ready to be deployed on their farms, as well as emergency plans such as towing their farms away from the affected areas. But the devil is in the timing and execution of measures.

“It’s quite easy to plan, but difficult to do it … You can put fish in canvas bags for a few days, but you’d have to know a few days beforehand (to do so) and you can’t have so much fish,” one farmer said.

Signs displayed in this episode were also different from last year’s, fish farmers told TODAY. Low dissolved oxygen levels were blamed in last year’s bloom, but it was not a factor this time, going by their own tests, they said. Some professed not to know very much about harmful algal blooms.

Marine expert Lim Po Teen of the University of Malaya said different responses are needed for different algae species. Physical barriers such as canvas bags are futile if they are not set up before the bloom hits, he said.

Some algae species irritate fish gills, causing the gills to be covered with mucus and the fish gasp for air near the water surface and suffocate. For these species, filtration of water and aeration tend to be helpful, said Associate Professor Lim.

But other algae species (most dinoflagellates) produce some form of neurotoxins that directly kill fish and aeration will not help in these situations, he said. “It is crucial to know what we are dealing with. If we cannot confirm what is the cause of fish kills, then we are not ready to manage it.”

Experts also said that while aquaculture in areas with regular harmful algal blooms can be precarious, the negative impact can be mitigated with improved monitoring and predictive capabilities.

The AVA said it routinely surveys water temperature, pH, salinity and dissolved oxygen around farming areas, encourages farmers to notify it of unusual fish or water conditions, and provides early alerts. But it did not say if the routine readings are shared with farmers.

Singapore could look at the monitoring programmes used by the aquaculture industries in New Zealand (done by private research agencies with costs covered by the farmers) and Japan (done by fishery cooperatives and the local government), suggested Assoc Prof Lim.

Some mitigation options suggested in scientific literature include remote sensing to detect chlorophyll-a (a specific form of chlorophyll used in oxygenic photosynthesis) and other algal pigments in the water, said Dr Angela Capper of James Cook University’s College of Marine and Environmental Sciences.

“Molecular approaches are a progressive tool playing a key role in the identification of harmful algal bloom species. Satellite and predictive modelling based on a range of … parameters including climatic conditions and sea-surface temperatures also assist with the implementation of mitigation strategies,” she said.

PSI FOR WATER?

Perhaps, what the authorities have done with air quality data can be replicated for water quality. Pollutant Standards Index readings are publicly available online and air-quality reporting was improved last year. With better and readily available data, farmers with an appetite for more information, and researchers and marine enthusiasts — who have been tirelessly doing shore walks to monitor dead fish — would benefit.

Timely consumer alerts would also inform the public and prevent rumour-mongering during plankton blooms.

The AVA has informed the public that fish samples from affected farms do not contain marine biotoxins and that fish harvested from local farms are safe to eat, but the public should also know causes of the fish deaths, the plankton species identified, whether it is safe to play in waters near affected areas and what developments to expect.

The closed-containment aquaculture systems being developed will be part of the solution, although a farmer said it may be too costly to use for the entire duration of the fish’s life and that the flesh of fish farmed in open waters is better.

The food-fish farming industry, while relatively small, deserves an appropriate injection of research and capital if the commitment is to keep it afloat.

The public ought to be better informed about the food they eat and challenges facing those who supply that food.

On-the-ground efforts of marine enthusiasts ought to be complemented by academic research and findings that are openly shared.

Clearly, we need more science in the public domain to make progress on fish-kill episodes so that when the next plankton or algal bloom occurs in Singapore waters, fish farmers will be better equipped to cope.

Source: TODAY

1. Mr Ong Kim Pit’s fish farm in Lim Chu Kang was hit on Friday by mass fish deaths, which had first affected farms in the east of the island. He has lost more than 60,000 baby and adult Mullet fish, with losses estimated at $10,000. Photo by Lau Fook Kong
2. Friends Wong Jing Kai (left) and Bryan Ang, who went into partnership with Mr Teh Aik Hua, 60, who owns Ah Hua Kelong, lost 80 per cent of their fish in the recent mass fish deaths at their farm near Pasir Ris. Photo by Seah Kwang Peng

Fish deaths: Fish farmers mentally prepared for more losses, and resigned to fate
The plankton bloom that hit fish farms along the Johor Strait has caused millions of dollars in losses, and plenty of heartache. But while some farmers have decided to simply take it on the chin, others are fighting back. The Straits Times speaks to five farms.
By Carolyn Khew, 9th March 2015;

It has been a tough weekend for 65-year-old fish farmer Ong Kim Pit.

On Friday, his Lim Chu Kang fish farm was hit by mass fish deaths, which had first affected farms in the east of the island.

He lost more than 60,000 baby and adult Mullet fish (Flathead Grey Mullet) (Mugil cephalus), with losses estimated at $10,000.

But he appears to be resigned to his fate.

He said he is aware there are closed rearing systems that can help to isolate fish from the harmful effects of plankton blooms.

But the farmer, who has been in the business for about 20 years, said he is not going to stop using net cages, in which fish are reared in the sea.

When asked why, he said rearing fish in containers is “not so simple” because of the heavy costs involved.

There are also limits on how much fish one can raise in a container, he added.

Besides, the father of three sons, aged 27 to 34, plans to retire in a few years’ time. And he does not want his kids to take over his business as it is a hard life.

“You have to be in the sun and rain a lot and, frankly, I think young people are scared of that,” said Mr Ong.

He said he buys his Mullet and Milkfish (Chanos chanos) fingerlings from Indonesia and feeds them bread and instant noodles for about 11/2 years before he sells them.

He said a similar plankton bloom could see him suffer more loses.

“If I can clear my stock quickly, I’ll do it,” he added.

“The only other thing I can do is to prepare myself mentally. Once the bloom comes, the fish will be gone.”

Source: The Straits Times

Fish deaths: Duo turn to online crowdsourcing for help
By Isaac Neo, 9th March 2015;

Fish farming might seem unattractive to most young people, but in the case of 26-year-olds Wong Jing Kai and Bryan Ang, their youth has been a plus.

Last April, the two friends from national service went into partnership with Mr Teh Aik Hua, 60, who owns Ah Hua Kelong.

The farm rears Golden Pomfret (Snubnose Pompano) (Trachinotus blochii), Sea Bass (Barramundi) (Lates calcarifer) and Pearl Groupers (Brown-marbled or Tiger Grouper X Giant Grouper) (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus X lanceolatus), along with mussels and crabs.

The recent plankton bloom wiped out 80 per cent of their entire stock at their farm just five minutes away from Lorong Halus on the north-east coast near Pasir Ris.

The remaining 20 per cent was saved after being moved to their farm in Sembawang.

But they still needed help.

So, the Internet-savvy new partners turned to online crowdsourcing and raised over US$12,000 (S$16,500) through the Indiegogo website.

The money, they said, was needed to help them cover their operating costs. “We are thankful to those who have supported us, it would have been much tougher without them,” said Mr Wong.

They also plan to downsize the Pasir Ris farm and expand their Sembawang farm, which was unaffected by the bloom.

They estimate it will take them at least nine months to get their business back on track and, even then, they may never be able to recover everything. However, they remain optimistic.

They believe their business model which includes delivering the produce straight to households – a plan which the two new partners came up with – is one that will work. Said Mr Ang: “Seafood is something that most Singaporeans really like.”

Source: The Straits Times

Fish found washed up on the shore at Lim Chu Kang jetty. Farmers are shocked at how sudden and severe the latest plankton bloom is. Photo by Lau Fook Kong

Growing concern over future of fish farms amid recurring plankton blooms
Recurring and more severe plankton blooms a big challenge for farmers
By Carolyn Khew, 9th March 2015;

The plankton bloom which wiped out more than 500 tonnes of fish along the East Johor Strait last week, and seems to have now affected farms in the western side, has raised concerns on the industry’s future here.

Affected farmers told The Straits Times that despite earlier warnings given by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), they were shocked at how sudden and severe the latest bloom was.

Mr Simon Ho, who is in his 60s and has been in the business for five years, had put in oxygen compressors since receiving the warnings in the middle of last month. But he still lost all 35 tonnes of his fish- the product of more than a year’s worth of work – at his farm off Lorong Halus jetty.

In January and February last year, thousands of fish died after being poisoned by plankton blooms caused by high temperatures and low tides.

But Mr Frank Tan, 40, who owns Marine Life Aquaculture, said that unlike last year, the bloom was much harder to detect this time.

The bloom typically turns water brownish-red, when the plankton appear in large numbers. This year, he did not see this happening.

Some fish farmers say their enterprise is a “high risk” one, given that they already have to cope with unpredictable environmental factors, such as temperature.

Of Singapore’s 126 fish farms, 117 are coastal, and most grow their fish in net cages in the sea. That means the livestock is vulnerable to changes in the environment.

Now the worry is that the deadly plankton blooms may become an annual affair.

The answer may be to rear the fish in a closed containment aquaculture system, which will shield the animals from external factors.

These systems include putting the fish in giant tanks into which filtered and oxygenated seawater is pumped. These tanks can be placed on land or on platforms out at sea.

But older farmers are reluctant to make the change from the farming methods they grew up with and know so well, while others say containment systems simply cost too much.

Mr Ong Kim Pit, who is 65 and has been in the business for about 20 years, said: “It’s not that easy. The containers can only rear so much fish and you need to spend thousands building them.”

Still, there are those willing to take the plunge, with the help of the Government, which is encouraging greater local fish production to boost the country’s food security. In 2013, 8 per cent of fish supply here came from local sources, and the plan is to increase this to 15 per cent.

Last August, the Ministry of National Development rolled out a $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund to help local farmers boost their yields and raise productivity.

The AVA also this month awarded a tender to develop closed fish rearing systems to five companies.

One of them is The Fish Farmer, which produces 800 tonnes of fish annually at its Lim Chu Kang and Changi farms.

Chief executive Malcolm Ong, 51, hopes to grow his fish fry, which are more vulnerable to disease and the bloom, in tanks in about six months’ time.

The system is estimated to cost $364,000, and AVA will reimburse some of the cost, he said.

Once the fish grow big enough, he will transfer them to net cages.

“I am really committed to finding a solution,” said Mr Ong. “I am not going to be defeated by the plankton bloom.”

Source: The Straits Times

NEA cleaners cleaning up the dead fish washed up on Lim Chu Kang jetty. Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday said the bloom will pose a “real challenge for long-term fish farming in that area”. Photo by Lau Fook Kong

Plankton bloom causing fish deaths ‘likely to recur’
AVA and farmers must discuss best way to tackle challenge: Vivian
By Carolyn Khew, 9th March 2015;

The plankton bloom behind the recent mass deaths of fish along the Johor Strait is likely to keep happening.

And this will pose a “real challenge for long-term fish farming in that area”, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday.

“The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and the fish farmers are going to have to sit down to discuss what’s the best way forward.”

Two Saturdays ago, coastal farms in Changi lost thousands of fish to plankton bloom. Then last Friday, farms in Lim Chu Kang were hit. More than 500 tonnes of fish have been lost.

Asked about the issue yesterday, on the sidelines of the Green Corridor Run, Dr Balakrishnan said that plankton blooms tend to occur whenever there is a dry spell or drought.

This is especially true for the waters facing the Strait of Johor.

“This is likely to be a recurrent problem with global warming, with greater incidence of both droughts as well as heavy, intense storms,” he added.

Plankton blooms can be deadly as the plankton suck oxygen from the water, suffocating other marine life.

The National Environment Agency said that the first half of this month is expected to have less rainfall than usual. This follows significantly low levels of rain in the previous two months.

The dry weather is partly due to the early onset of the north-east monsoon’s dry phase, which is characterised by drier weather and occasional wind.

Last Saturday, dead fish, including Catfish (F. Ariidae and F. Plotosidae) and Mullet (F. Mugilidae), were found washed up on the shores at Lim Chu Kang jetty, resulting in a clean-up operation by the National Environment Agency which continued until yesterday.

It is believed that more than 200 bags of dead fish were collected at the jetty.

Across the Causeway, Malaysian reports estimated that six tonnes of wild and cultured fish were found dead in areas such as Johor Port and Puteri Harbour.

The AVA said last week that it will provide assistance to fish farmers affected by the fish deaths, so that they can recover and restart their operations. There are 117 coastal farms around Singapore.

It is also looking to enhance their ability to better withstand such incidents – for instance, by putting in place contingency plans.

Fish farmer Simon Ho, who is in his 60s, hopes for a longer-term solution to prevent the mass fish deaths from happening again.

The plankton bloom wiped out all 80,000 of his Silver Pomfrets (Pampus sp.) this year.

When the bloom hit last year, he managed to save half of his stock.

“I’m not going to start rearing fish again until there’s a solution to the plankton problem,” said Mr Ho, who owns New Ocean Fish Farm.

“We’ve tried so hard already.”

Source: The Straits Times