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AVA lifts suspension on 2 fish farms hit by oil spill

SINGAPORE — Two farms may now sell fish again after a suspension order was lifted by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), as they have completed cleanup operations due to the recent oil spill and fish samples taken from them have passed food-safety tests.

AVA lifts suspension on 2 fish farms hit by oil spill

The fishes affected by the oil spill at the fish farm near Pulau Ubin. Photo: Wee Teck Hian/TODAY

SINGAPORE — Two farms may now sell fish again after a suspension order was lifted by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), as they have completed cleanup operations due to the recent oil spill and fish samples taken from them have passed food-safety tests.

In a statement on Friday (Jan 13), the AVA said that the two farms — Tiberias Harvest and Singapore Aquaculture Technologies — have also put in place measures such as setting up canvas skirting and closed containment systems to reduce the risk of oil incursion into the farm. However, sales of crustaceans from one of these two farms, which AVA did not name, remains under suspension as food-safety evaluation is ongoing. The suspension for 10 other farms 
remains.

Some 300 tonnes of oil gushed into the waters off Singapore last Tuesday, after two ships collided off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor, Malaysia.

The AVA had earlier ordered 12 fish farms to suspend sales in the aftermath of the accident.

Noting that the situation had “improved significantly”, an AVA spokesperson said on Friday that most of the oil had been removed from the farms, but a few farms are still in the midst of cleaning up farm structures and equipment such as nets and floating drums, and taking measures to prevent re-entry of residual oil.

AVA officers have been visiting coastal fish farms in the East Johor Straits daily to ascertain and mitigate the situation, including helping with the cleanup efforts, it said. The authority added that it would also be helping the fish farmers on their claims arising from their business losses due to the oil spill. A check with a few farms on Friday showed that operations are still held up, with reports of business taking a hit.

Mr Timothy Ng from 2 Jays farm, which was among those suspended, said that the bulk of the oil had been cleaned up from the water, but he still sees cleaners trying to scrape off oil from the flotation barrels by hand or with absorbent cloths.

His farm has about four to five tonnes of fishes, but it is difficult to quantify the losses, he said.

Mr Ng, who is also president of the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore, said: “I’m beginning to see that some of the fishes are not well, and more have died. I counted another 100 that died, but these are still early stages … We just have to wait and see.”

Another fish farmer Phillip Lim lamented that the coastal fish farming industry is finding it difficult to survive after being hit by a series of incidents, such as plankton blooms causing mass deaths, and now the oil spill. “The public is very cautious now, but we can’t blame them,” he said, adding that sales have declined by 
80 per cent.

While he and some other farmers are hoping for some form of compensation from AVA, the costs of engaging a lawyer is a major deterrent for those who have sustained huge losses.

“Who helps the small farmers? Big farmers have no problem as they can engage lawyers, but some small farmers may not want to claim,” 
Mr Lim said. “When do (we) dare to start (selling), when will the water quality recover, and is it suitable for farming … there are many question marks,” he added.

Mr Tan Choon Teck, from FC57E Fish Farm, said in Mandarin: “We just hope that we can recover some of our losses and quickly sell our fish … It’s a big headache for us (worrying about this).”

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