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Modernise fish farming methods to cut losses: Maliki

SINGAPORE — Although steps will be taken to minimise the impact of recurring plankton bloom — the most recent episode killed more than 600 tonnes of fish — farmers “must consider modernising their farming methods, so they will be better protected in the long term”, said Minister of State (National Development) Maliki Osman yesterday.

Modernise fish farming methods to cut losses: Maliki

The fishes at Mr Phillip Lim's, 53, fish farm at the Pasir Ris eastern fish farms have been completely wiped out in the recent algae boom. Photo: Robin Choo

SINGAPORE — Although steps will be taken to minimise the impact of recurring plankton bloom — the most recent episode killed more than 600 tonnes of fish — farmers “must consider modernising their farming methods, so they will be better protected in the long term”, said Minister of State (National Development) Maliki Osman yesterday.

To help fish farmers, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will not be imposing the minimum production requirement on affected farms nor take action against them for failing to meet the criterion.

“We ... will allow them sufficient time to get back onto their feet and will continue to help them do so,” Dr Maliki said during the second day of the Ministry of National Development’s Committee of Supply debate yesterday.

The impact of this year’s algal bloom appeared to be more severe, with losses of up to 600 tonnes of fish belonging to 55 farms — up from 500 tonnes of fish from 53 farms last year.

The AVA has been monitoring fish farming areas daily over the past weeks and issuing warnings when needed, Dr Maliki noted.

For example, when it detected elevated plankton levels in the East Johor Straits on Feb 16 and 17, the authority issued warnings to farmers before fish deaths peaked on Feb 27.

Some farmers were able to save part of their stocks following the AVA’s warnings, but Dr Maliki noted that there were others who had not reacted in time.

“We cannot prevent plankton blooms from recurring, but we can take steps to minimise their impact when they occur,” he said.

The AVA will be helping fish farmers develop contingency plans to reduce future loss, while farmers can learn from those who have installed “resilient systems”.

They can also tap the AVA’s Agriculture Productivity Fund to buy relevant equipment, Dr Maliki added.

For example, after the AVA issued its first warning to alert farmers of adverse weather conditions in January, Mr Gary Chang of San Lay Marine Culture Co began lining his net cages with canvas and installed a simple infiltration system to maintain water quality.

His quick action mitigated his losses to only a tenth of last year’s fish kill.

The AVA has also commissioned projects to develop closed containment systems that reduce the vulnerability of fish stock to harmful water conditions.

“The existing mode of farming in net cages in the sea exposes fish to unnecessary risks,” Dr Maliki said, as he urged farmers to modernise their methods.

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