Best of our wild blogs: 22 Jul 15

The 4th Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium – 24 five-minute presentations and 30 posters! (Sat 01 Aug 2015)

Volunteer with us: Be an LKCNHM Gallery guide!
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Celebrate National Day with a Coastal Cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove (Fri 07 Aug 2015)!
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Bishan Park water quality normal despite mass fish deaths: PUB

Despite the death of up to 900 fish in the river running through Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, laboratory tests show the raw water quality, including dissolved oxygen levels, is within normal range, PUB says.
Channel NewsAsia 21 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: About 800 to 900 fish were found dead at the Kallang River at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, but the water quality is normal, said Singapore's water agency PUB.

In a statement, PUB said it was alerted to the problem on Monday (Jul 20) at about 7.40pm. "A site check was carried out immediately and NEA’s contractors were activated to remove the dead fish. Clean-up operations which commenced since last evening at the affected stretch of the river are largely completed," PUB said on Tuesday.

Laboratory tests showed that the raw water quality, including dissolved oxygen levels, is within normal range, the agency stated.

Most of the fish affected are cichlids. Specimens have been sent to AVA for examination, PUB said. Investigations on the cause are still ongoing.

"As of now, the water quality of the river in Bishan Park is normal, live fishes can be seen in the water and the public can continue with their activities at Kallang River @Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. PUB will continue to monitor the situation," a PUB spokesperson said

- CNA/ly

Mass fish deaths at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
MARISSA YEO Today Online 21 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE — The public may continue their activities at the Kallang River in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, as authorities investigate what killed some 900 fish there despite normal levels of dissolved oxygen, national water agency PUB said today (July 21).

The dead fish were discovered from last evening and specimens have been sent to the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority for examination, said PUB. “Investigations on the case are still ongoing.”

The PUB checked the site after it was alerted at 7.40pm yesterday.

Contractors of the National Environment Agency were activated to remove the dead fish – numbering about 800 to 900 and which were mainly cichlids – and the PUB said clean-up operations were largely completed as of last evening.

Laboratory tests of water samples collected by PUB along the river showed dissolved oxygen levels within the normal range, said the spokesperson. As of this evening, the water quality of the river in the park was normal and live fishes could be seen, she said.

This is not the first time the park has been hit by fish deaths: Last February, about 400 fish died as Singapore underwent a dry spell. The PUB said at the time that the deaths could be because of lower levels of dissolved oxygen due to hot and dry weather.

Although unaffected, some Bishan residents approached today were surprised to find out about the fish deaths.

Ms Koh Lay Bin, who exercises at the park, said: “I didn’t know that there was clearing of the fishes. (Previously), I have seen several fish that died, probably because the water levels were very low; however I will still see some of them swimming.”

Another resident, Mr Patrick Wong, 60, said: “I don’t really see much fishes along river (when I pass by). It may be due to the shallow waters. However, there are more fishes at the bridges because the water levels are slightly deeper.”

Mass fish deaths have been reported elsewhere in Singapore in recent years. In March, wild fish as well as up to 600 tonnes of farmed fish died in the East Johor Strait off Pasir Ris amid an algal bloom. Last year, a plankton bloom cost fish farmers in both the East and West Johor Straits about 500 tonnes of fish.

Mass fish deaths again at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
PUB says 800 to 900 fish dead in Kallang River; similar incident occurred in February last year
Carolyn Khew Straits Times 22 Jul 15;

Close to a thousand fish went belly up at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on Monday night, in a repeat of a similar incident last year.

National water agency PUB said that the latest incident at Kallang River, which runs through the park, affected about 800 to 900 fish of varying sizes. They were mainly cichlids, a diverse family which includes the popular aquarium fish luohan and the food fish tilapia.

Fish specimens have been sent to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore for examination, and investigations are ongoing, said a spokesman for PUB. It is monitoring the situation.

While the cause of the mass fish deaths is a mystery for now, experts The Straits Times spoke to suspect that, like the incident in February last year which killed about 400 fish, it could be related to the hot weather and reduced rainfall.

Dr Tan Heok Hui, a fish expert from the National University of Singapore's (NUS) department of biological sciences, explained that this could have led to low oxygen levels in the water. When there is less rain, the water becomes clearer, so sunlight can better penetrate and algae grows faster, explained Dr Tan, who is also a museum officer at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

Water samples that the PUB collected for testing showed that the raw water quality, including dissolved oxygen levels, was within the normal range, it said.

The agency received a report of dead fish at around 7.40pm on Monday, and cleanup operations since then have been largely completed, said the PUB yesterday.

"As of now, the water quality of the river in Bishan Park is normal, live fishes can be seen in the water and the public can continue with their activities at Kallang River at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park," said the PUB spokesman.

When The Straits Times visited the park yesterday morning, cleaners were still removing the dead fish. Residents in the area said that the dead fish gave off a pungent smell which wafted over to the main road nearby.

Bishan resident Chen Shanshan, 24, who lives at the block next to the park, said that she could see many dead fish floating in the water even from her eighth-floor flat.

"I saw passers-by gawking and taking pictures and then later, when I was crossing the road, I could smell the dead fish stench," said the communications associate.

Dr Chou Loke Ming, adjunct research professor at the Tropical Marine Science Institute at NUS, said the mass fish deaths are worrying, and that it could happen again.

"Most would point to the changing climate and that may indeed be true, but we need to investigate to be sure," he said.

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Dolphin Villa ads unacceptable, says watchdog

Watchdog finds fault with various claims, wants developers to make ad changes
Toh Yong Chuan Straits Times 22 Jul 15;

In April, the property developer behind a Batam villa project splashed a series of print advertisements promising views of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and leaping dolphins at the residents' doorsteps.

But now, Singapore's advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (Asas), has objected to the ads, and asked the developer to change them.

It found three things unacceptable: claiming that landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands are visible from the villas, promising a guaranteed rental of 7 per cent a year and quoting an anonymous buyer on how wonderful the development is.

The watchdog reviewed the ads after a Sunday Times report in May on the villas, which cost $758,000 each and are being built around a lagoon of captive dolphins.

It told The Straits Times that it had informed the developer about the objections last month.

Asas chairman Tan Sze Wee said that when an advertiser is informed that certain parts of an ad are not acceptable, the advertiser has to stop making the objectionable claims "with immediate effect in all current and future marketing communications".

The developers behind the dolphin lagoon villas are Singapore-registered firms Funtasy Island Development and Seven Seas FID. The project is located on a cluster of six small islands collectively known as Pulau Manis, 3km off Batam in Indonesia.

The 64 two-bedroom villas, which look like round bamboo huts and are each about the size of an HDB executive flat, are built around a lagoon with dolphins which residents can feed and play with.

Bungalows being built over the sea off Batam that are part of a Funtasy Island Development project.

The developer has promised shops and restaurants nearby and a direct ferry service from Singapore's HarbourFront .

The villas, slated to be completed by the end of 2018, were launched at the upmarket One Degree 15 Marina on Sentosa in April.

The villas around the lagoon are part of a larger development of eight other housing projects on Pulau Manis with a total of more than 600 units - comprising villas, bungalows and apartments.

The development sits on land owned by PT Batam Island Marina. The Indonesian company has promised on its website to renew land leases up to 2112. Foreigners cannot own land in Indonesia but can be granted leases to use the land.

Ms Kelly Huang, a spokesman for Funtasy Island Development, said the developers "will observe the guidance" given by the advertising watchdog. "We will work closely with Asas in the future," she said.

"At this point, we have not decided the manner in which the ads will come out."

A check on Funtasy Island's website last week found that the Marina Bay Sands skyline, the 7 per cent annual rent guarantee and the ringing endorsement by the anonymous buyer - aspects that Asas objected to - were still prominently featured.

"Asas has jurisdiction only over local print and broadcast advertisements, but not what the companies do online," said Mr Ku Swee Yong, chief executive of estate agency Century 21.

"There is nothing stopping a developer from putting information on Facebook or the Internet.

"This is a key weakness."

Related link
Preservation groups, activists raise concerns about Batam property with captive dolphins
Audrey Tan and Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 May 15;

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