AVA to help farmers prevent repeat of mass fish deaths

FISH farmers reeling from mass fish deaths in recent weeks will get subsidies and help in the bulk purchase of new stocks, Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman said in Parliament yesterday.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) will help farmers source for quality fish fry and fingerlings, and will co-fund 70 per cent of the cost.

To strengthen farmers' resilience in food production, it will also co-fund 70 per cent of the cost of new equipment, the Ministry of National Development added in response to media queries later.

"We want to turn this situation from adversity to opportunity... how we can actually facilitate them improving their systems such that future occurrences may be prevented," said Mr Maliki.

He pointed out that poor aeration systems were a factor in the mass deaths, which started about three weeks ago.

They were blamed on plankton bloom and low oxygen levels, triggered by the double whammy of hot weather and low tides.

During a visit to fish farms off Changi last Thursday, Mr Maliki had also said that fish farmers would get help in tapping a $30 million AVA fund to boost food production.

His comments yesterday were prompted by questions from Nominated MP Faizah Jamal, who had also asked whether fish farms that did not comply with AVA regulations would have their licences revoked.

Non-compliance could include improper waste disposal such as dumping dead fish into the open sea, or failure to meet a production target of 17 tonnes of fish per half hectare.

Mr Maliki said revoking licences would be a "worst-case scenario" and would be aimed at farms that have failed over several years to meet licensing conditions.

He added: "But I think the way to go right now is to help them... this is their livelihood. We want to try to be sympathetic."

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