Malaysia: RM100,000 worth of fish found dead in Sabah

The Star 28 Nov 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Fish farmers in Kina­batangan, the site of Malaysia’s biggest Ramsar site, were stunned to find that all their fish, reared in cages, were dead.

“We noticed something amiss earlier. When dawn came the next day (last Friday), our worst fears were confirmed when we found all of them belly up,” said Kampung Mumiang Village Development and Security Committee head Mada Hussin.

The fish were reared in 50 cages.

Kampung Mumiang is located at the estuary of the Kinabatangan River and is about an hour away by speedboat from Sandakan.

The Convention on Wetlands of Inter­national Importance, better known as the Ramsar Convention, is an inter-governmental treaty that looks into conservation wetlands and their resources. There are six Ramsar sites in Malaysia.

Mada said the farmers lost grouper, snapper and other types of fish, adding that the cost could come up to RM100,000.

This would impact about 50 families, he said.

“We want answers from the authorities. We want to know the cause. We want compensation from whoever is responsible for our losses,” Mada said.

The villagers, he said, would usually keep some fish for their own consumption and sell the rest.

“We have lost everything now,” he added.

He said the farmers were in a dilemma as they could not depend on catching fish at the nearby river due to dwindling numbers.

“The villagers are now waiting for test results on samples taken by the Fisheries Department.”

Mada said pollutants from a plantation could have flowed into the Malangking River, a tributary of the Kinabatangan.

“The last time we lost fish on this scale was about four years ago,” he said.

Cynthia Ong, the director of Forever Sabah which works towards an equitable and green economy, said such tragic events were typically associated with oxygen depletion in dead zones caused by fertiliser, palm oil mill effluents or disturbed peat soil.

“Studies in Malaysia and around the world showed that fisheries sustained by healthy mangroves are worth hundreds of dollars per hectare to the Sabah economy,” Ong said.

Deluge of fresh water could be the cause
The Star 1 Dec 15;

I REFER to the report, “RM100,000 worth of fish found dead” (The Star, Nov 28).

The fish were reportedly reared in suspended cages at the estuary of the Kinabatangan River.

The fish were saltwater species, mainly kerapu (groupers) and jenahak (presumably mangrove snappers), hence the cages were suspended in the estuarine location where the water is saline.

The Sabah Fisheries officials had taken samples to determine the cause of the fish mortality. I hope that they had also taken water samples in the vicinity to determine, apart from other parameters, the salinity of the water going through the cages.

From my earlier experience as a staff of the Fisheries Research Institute in Penang I had encountered similar instances of large- scale fish mortality in cages placed in the estuarine region of rivers, cages that were used for rearing saltwater fish.

My investigations then revealed that fish mortality was a result of a sudden deluge of fresh water from upstream due to a spell of heavy rain and that the fresh water would have most likely killed the fish in the cages.

Saltwater fish are unable to withstand a lowering of salinity to critical levels, especially when they are caged and unable to escape to safer areas down the estuary to the coastal zone where there is tidal effect.

Kulai Jaya

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