$1.25m for ideas to improve fish farming

$1.25m for ideas to improve fish farming
The new Lorong Halus jetty has a higher mooring capacity and is safer than the Changi Creek site. It is also dedicated for fish farm use.

TO HELP farmers here produce more fish, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is doling out $1.25 million to those who can work with the agency to develop better "closed containment aquaculture" systems that won't be so easily affected by pollutants and bad weather.

It is also coming up with good-aquaculture-practice guidelines for fish farms, said Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman yesterday.

Closed containment systems are those that shield the fish from the external environment - using floating canvas bags and filtering and recirculating seawater, for example.

"Such a system in a coastal environment can, among others, help our fish farms mitigate against adverse environmental conditions," Dr Maliki said, speaking at the opening of a new Lorong Halus jetty for Singapore fish farmers whose farms are in the eastern Johor Straits.

He added that the agency would ask for proposals by the end of next month, and provide more details on its good aquaculture practices in September.

With more productive farming methods, the hope is to almost double fish yields to 15 per cent of that eaten here, for greater food security.

To this end, the AVA has also installed continuous online water quality monitoring systems at some fish farms; it calls and text-messages fish farmers in case of poor water conditions.

The moves come after thousands of fish died suddenly in January and February after being poisoned by plankton blooms brought on by high temperatures and low tides. Then, 39 coastal farms lost 160 tonnes of fish.

The new Lorong Halus jetty is another step to help local fish farmers, whose 4,200 tonnes of fish produced each year make up about 8 per cent of fish consumed here.

Sixty-three of Singapore's 117 coastal fish farms are based in the eastern Johor Strait, with most of the rest in the western end near Lim Chu Kang.

The $3.85 million jetty offers a higher mooring capacity and is safer than the alternative Changi Creek site, where farmers had to climb a ladder while weighed down with 100kg boxes. It is also dedicated for fish farm use so farmers do not have to jostle with other boats, saving them waiting time.

The jetty, which also has a proper waste disposal shelter, is free for farmers to use for three months. AVA will decide on the fees to be paid after this period and will inform farmers.

Mr Frank Tan, chief operating officer of fish farm Marine Life Aquaculture, said the new jetty cut his round-trip time from 21/2 hours to about 50 minutes.

"We will evaluate and see if it's safer and more convenient," he said, adding that the farm would "definitely consider" a permanent switch.

caiwj@sph.com.sg


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