Singapore’s fish farms brace for impact of climate change

The expected soaring temperatures could result in a plankton bloom, leading to massive fish deaths and loss of earnings for farmers.
Loh Chuan Junn, Channel NewsAsia 26 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: With temperatures in Singapore expected to climb in the coming weeks, coastal fish farmers are coming up with ways to cope with a possible plankton bloom.

The phenomenon, which sees a surge in plankton due to factors like unusual weather, can cause massive fish deaths. It has been occurring here since 2009. In 2015, more than 50 coastal farms across Singapore lost more than 500 tonnes of fish to the plankton bloom overnight. Some fish farms lost more than S$1 million in earnings.

In response, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority worked with coastal fish farmers to develop mitigating measures against plankton bloom. These include a closed containment system using canvas bags. However, some farmers Channel NewsAsia spoke to said the canvas-bag system may not be helpful.

"The canvas system is only suitable for nursery fishes,” said fish farmer Philip Lim. “It’s not for grown up fishes or long-term usage because your water is already contaminated. To take out the fishes to the reservoir, you’ll need time.

“So, with plankton bloom, it won’t wait. It’ll come suddenly, even if you're prepared. When it comes at midnight, you’ll still have no time for that when you have more fish."

Prompted by the warmer conditions, Mr Lim is hoping to use biological chemicals like catalyst enzyme to reduce the concentration of algae in the water. It causes algae to sink to the bottom and converts it into a food source for marine species.

ALTERNATIVES TO FISH

Meanwhile, the president of the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore, Mr Timothy Ng, said many of its 50-odd members are either scaling down their operations or turning to other kinds of farming.

"If we cannot do farming of fish, we may turn to farming of other things like maybe lobsters,” said Mr Ng. “I hear some of the old-timers have gone crabbing, just to harvest flower crabs from the sea for sale. So, it's just to hopefully ride out this situation and hope that'll at least be some real effective measures coming."

The coastal fish farmers hope more innovations and improvements can help them sustain their business, as climate change continues to be an issue.

- CNA/jo

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