Mass fish deaths: AVA to fund 70% of re-stocking cost for affected farmers

SINGAPORE — The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) yesterday laid out how it is assisting fish farmers affected by the mass die-offs earlier this month to re-stock their farms.

The AVA will source for and facilitate the bulk purchase of quality fish fry and fingerlings, said a National Development Ministry spokesperson last night. In addition, the AVA will co-fund 70 per cent of the cost of the fry and fingerlings, with farmers paying the rest.

“To help farmers develop better resilience in fish production, the AVA will also co-fund 70 per cent of the purchase of equipment and systems required to be put in place to mitigate against similar incidents in the future,” said the ministry’s spokesperson.

The spokesperson’s comments came after Minister of State (National Development) Maliki Osman had assured Parliament earlier yesterday that the AVA is working “very closely” with fish-farm owners to develop better systems so that they can cope with sudden adverse changes to the environment and meet production targets better.

Dr Maliki had said this in response to a question by Nominated Member of Parliament Faizah Jamal, who asked whether the AVA monitors the proper disposal of waste from fish farms.

To help fish farms along the East Johor Straits dispose of waste in a proper way, a jetty with a waste collection centre will be built at Lorong Halus, Dr Maliki said.

The centre — which will start operating at the end of the year — will be similar to that of fish farms on the western and southern coasts, which are served by a central disposal system at the Lim Chu Kang jetty, he told Parliament.

Ms Faizah also pointed out that she had not spotted any skid tanks — huge metal tanks often used for industrial waste — for fish farm waste in the Changi area prior to the recent mass fish deaths.

The AVA said on Feb 11 that about 160 tonnes of dead fish were reported by 39 fish farms along both the East and West Johor Straits. The mass deaths could have been caused by a plankton bloom — brought on by hot weather or the neap tide — which can drain seawater of oxygen.

“These questions were filed before the recent incident of fish deaths, so I think the questions are even more important at this stage for us to consider,” Ms Faizah said.

Ms Faizah also wanted to know if the AVA monitors water quality, and why it did not give advance notice on the plankton bloom — which drains seawater of oxygen — that caused the mass fish deaths.

Noting that the plankton bloom “happened very fast”, Dr Maliki added that a “multitude of factors”, such as the susceptibility of certain types of fish to low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, led to the mass deaths.

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