New jetty at Pasir Ris for fish farmers

Feng Zengkun Straits Times 20 Nov 12;

A NEW jetty at Pasir Ris next year will make it easier for fish farmers to load and unload stock.

This is expected to cut transportation costs for some farmers and reduce overcrowding at the Changi Creek landing point next to Changi Jetty.

The new jetty will be located near the Pasir Ris Beach Park and is expected to be completed by next September.

The proposed design for the structure shows that up to 30 boats can dock there at the same time, but the plan has not been finalised.

When asked, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it had received feedback from fish farmers about "overcrowding during peak hours and the difficulties in loading and unloading activities at Changi Creek".

Climbing up a ladder to Changi Jetty is the only way for fish farmers in Singapore's eastern waters to legally load and unload supplies and fish stocks that can weigh hundreds of kilograms.

Last year, the Maritime and Port Authority noted that some fish farmers illegally beach their motorised boats at Pasir Ris Beach Park, which may damage the boats and endanger people who use the waters for canoeing and kayaking.

"The (new jetty) site was identified after discussions with the fish farmers and relevant agencies," said the AVA.

Mr Timothy Ng, 64, president of the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore, estimated that the jetty would help about 60 fish farmers in Singapore's eastern waters. "Landing points in Singapore are very limited now. The new jetty will serve the farmers very well," he said.

Under AVA's targets, each coastal fish farm here must produce at least 17 tonnes of fish per half-hectare of space a year, or risk losing its licence.

Currently, the 130 inland and coastal fish farms here are on track to produce 8 per cent of local consumption this year, the AVA said. The goal is to increase this to 15 per cent eventually, to reduce the Republic's reliance on imported fish.

Fish-tagging to help consumers make informed choice
Jessica Lim Straits Times 20 Nov 12;

BY TAGGING his fish with plastic labels, Mr Malcolm Ong, 49, the owner of Singapore's largest fish farm, hopes to stay ahead of what he thinks will become a growing trend.

The tags, attached to the tails of three species he breeds - mullet, milkfish and tilapia - will be introduced at NTUC FairPrice Finest stores this Friday.

Each tag, the size of two adjacent 50-cent coins, indicates whether the fish is seawater-farmed and free of antibiotics.

The farm's website is listed too, so consumers can learn more about the 3ha Metropolitan Fishery Group farm in Lim Chu Kang.

Mr Ong, whose business produced 600 tonnes of farmed fish last year, said the tags will allow consumers to make an informed choice while helping to differentiate his produce.

The cost of the tags and the labour involved - his estimate is 25 cents per fish - will not be passed on to consumers.

Pick up a fresh fish at a supermarket now and chances are that no one will be able to tell you which farm it is from.

Last year, Singapore imported about 116,700 tonnes of seafood from countries including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Of this, about 60 per cent is handled at the two fishery ports here.

They are sorted into piles according to species, then sold to supermarkets or traders, who distribute stock to wet markets and eateries.

At Sheng Siong, for instance, fish is sourced from many different countries and then classified according to species, rather than the country of origin. Its spokesman, Mr Tan Ching Fern, said that it would be too time-consuming to tag every fish.

Fish-tagging is relatively new in Singapore.

Several kilograms of tagged black tilapia from Malaysia have been sold at selected supermarkets on an ad hoc basis since 2010. But this will be the first time that tagged fish is making an appearance across various species on such a scale.

Metropolitan approached FairPrice in September to discuss the possibility of tagging its fish, and was given the green light after showing its samples.

"We felt that it would resonate well with our customers," said FairPrice managing director of group purchasing, merchandising and international trading Tng Ah Yiam.

"Feedback reveals that customers today are more informed and want to know more about the products available to them."

FairPrice will stock more of their stores with tagged fish if demand is good, said Mr Tng. The chain will start by selling about 20kg of tagged fish a day across its nine FairPrice Finest outlets, according to Metropolitan.

Mr Tng said FairPrice started indicating origin countries on its house brand vegetable products more than a year ago. It will soon be extending this to house brand meats.

Other supermarket chains, like Cold Storage, only tag fish on an ad hoc basis for special species or promotions. Only the wild cod sold at its Jelita outlet is tagged.

The trend of tagging fish has taken off in other countries. The two biggest supermarket chains in Canada, Loblaws and Metro, tag their seafood items. So do Whole Foods and Walmart in the United States.

Food and beverage consultant Mark Lionel Tay, 38, said it may take some time for tagged fish to make its mark here. "In general, consumers here care about the origin of the high-end products they buy. Less so for everyday products, where price is more important," he said.

"Singaporeans trust that all the food here is safe and they are not as sceptical."

But he added that tagged fish will help with identification. "If something goes wrong, you can trace it to the source."

It will also make it easier for consumers to go local.

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