Plankton blooms' link to fish deaths under study

Plankton blooms' link to fish deaths under study

SINGAPORE - Researches from several organisations are working with the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) on the link between plankton blooms and fish deaths, to shed more light on the causes of the mass deaths at Singapore's fish farms.

The AVA will also help fish farmers put in place contingency measures to minimise the fallout from such incidents in the future, Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman said.

It will also not impose the minimum production requirement of 17 tonnes of fish for every 0.5ha of farm space on affected farms, a concession it made last year after similar plankton bloom problems.

"We understand the difficulties the farmers face during these times and will allow them sufficient time to get back onto their feet," said Dr Maliki.

He was replying to Parliamentary Secretary Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (Nee Soon GRC), who wanted to know what the Government was doing to help the affected fish farms. So far, about 600 tonnes of fish have died, with farms near the East Johor Strait the worst hit.

But the situation has improved, said Dr Maliki at the debate on his ministry's budget.

Plankton is a main food source for sea creatures but an unexpected population explosion can suffocate them. Such blooms could be triggered by factors such as dry weather and pollution.

While his ministry is looking at what can be done to reduce pollution, Dr Maliki said it also needs to "better understand the science behind this phenomenon".

This is the second year in a row of mass fish deaths at the farms.

The AVA is collaborating with agencies such as the National Environment Agency, National Parks Board, national water agency PUB and research institutes like the Tropical Marine Study Institute at the National University of Singapore on the study.

Dr Maliki advised fish farmers to learn from counterparts who have installed resilient preventive systems and to tap funds to buy the equipment.

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

These systems shield fish from external harmful forces. Many farmers rear fish in net cages in the open sea, exposing their stock to unnecessary risks.

This article was first published on March 12, 2015.
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