Barramundi (Lates calcarifer)
Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon), 29th May 2017

Many of the offshore fish farms in the Straits of Johor raise Barramundi for human consumption, so this individual could have been a farmed fish, instead of being of wild origin.

Barramundi (Lates calcarifer)
Chek Jawa, 7th May 2016

This Barramundi was one of many fishes found dead in a driftnet that was illegally laid across the lagoon at Chek Jawa.

Many of the offshore fish farms in the Straits of Johor raise Barramundi for human consumption, so this individual could have been a farmed fish that managed to escape, instead of being of wild origin.

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

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)

Dropped by Changi Beach on Friday late afternoon for a brief check on the fish mass death situation. Lots of fishes that were likely from the fish farms (e.g. groupers, snappers, barramundi, pompano and golden trevally), but there were quite a number of wild fishes affected as well.

Farmers affected by mass fish deaths will be helped: Dr Maliki

13th February 2014;

The authorities will help fish farmers affected by mass fish deaths recently, said Minister of State for National Development Mohamad Maliki Osman when he visited two of the affected coastal fish farms on Thursday.

Source: Channel NewsAsia

Farmers affected by mass fish deaths will be helped: Dr Maliki

Mass fish death at farms along the East Johor Strait, reportedly since the second day of CNY. Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan has said the ministry and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) “will do our utmost to help our farmers” who were hit by mass fish deaths at coastal fish farms this month. – ST FILE PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

Government will do its utmost to help fish farmers hit by mass fish deaths: Khaw
By Grace Chua, 12th February 2014;

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan has said the ministry and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) “will do our utmost to help our farmers” who were hit by mass fish deaths at coastal fish farms this month.

Thousands of fish, both food fish and wild species, have died over the last week, most likely due to dry weather and neap tides combining to lower the dissolved oxygen in water near the farms.

Mr Khaw wrote in a blog post on Wednesday night: “This is every fish farmer’s fear and I feel sorry for their plight – not only is their livelihood impacted, it must be very painful to see their prized stocks wiped out suddenly.

"AVA has been working closely with the farmers to try and salvage the situation since last weekend. AVA/CEO Ms Tan Poh Hong, who spent an afternoon at the farms yesterday, told me that the situation was serious.”

Source: The Straits Times