Sharks kept in Tanjong Pagar dental clinic moved to open sea pen in fish farm

Audrey Tan Straits Times 2 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE - Three juvenile blacktip reef sharks, which were kept in an aquarium of a dental clinic in Tanjong Pagar, have been moved to an open sea pen in a fish farm in the Johor Strait.

When The Straits Times visited the Braces & Implant Dental Centre in Tras Street at about 9am on Friday (Feb 2), staff from fish farm, OnHand Agrarian, were preparing for the move.

A plastic sheet was spread out on the clinic's carpeted floor to prevent it from getting wet and a blue tank for the transport of the sharks was being filled with water.

A dental clinic staff member said the clinic would replace the sharks with reef fish.

The move comes after the sharks were spotted in the tank in December by a Ms Linda Leong, who took a video and uploaded it on Facebook.

The video prompted Netizens and marine conservationists, led by underwater photographer Michael Aw, to voice their concern about the welfare of the animals and ask for them to be moved to a bigger facility.

The sharks now measure about an arm's length but will grow to between 1.6m and 2.9m once they hit adulthood.

While it is not illegal to keep the sharks in a tank, conservationists worry that the small space may constrict the growth of these animals.

Dr Jimmy Gian, owner of the dental clinic, said in December that he had purchased the sharks with the intention of releasing the animals when they grew beyond 0.6m, as the tank could not accommodate adult sharks anyway.

He added that the objective of the aquarium was to show the public "the beautiful side of sharks" and to change the perception that sharks are fearsome.

Blacktip reef sharks can be found in Singapore's waters although mainly in the coral reefs in the Singapore Straits.

Black tip reef sharks being prepared for transfer to Johor Strait fish farm

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum ichthyologist (fish expert) Tan Heok Hui said: "Blacktip reef sharks, as the name alludes, occur mainly in coral reef habitats. The Johor Strait has less salinity than Singapore Strait, due to large freshwater inputs."

Dr Tan added that sharks typically fare better in saline habitats compared to the estuarine conditions of Singapore's northern waters.

He also noted that sharks are better off in the wild if they are not fished.

Black tip reef shark being transferred into tank

Mr Shannon Lim, 32, owner of OnHand Agrarian, said he has seen other species of sharks in the Johor Strait, such as nurse sharks, and is confident the blacktips will do well there.

There are no plans to release the sharks into the wild, as the sharks come from Indonesia, he said, and it would not be ideal to mix them with native sharks.

“We have suggested that the clinic rear estuarine fish that are less wide-ranging, such as seahorses and seagrass file fish. These species are more confined to a smaller area.”