17 April 2014

Thousands of farm fishes rot at Sungei Buloh

Thousands of dead farm fishes are floating into Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, raising a stink and many questions.
Another mass fish death at the Singapore's Western fish farms? Why are the farms not disposing of their dead fish properly? This has happened before in July 2013. What is the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) doing to prevent such mass littering incidents from occurring repeatedly? Why don't Singapore farms raise native fishes which are better adapted to our waters?

Here's a closer look at some of the dead fishes. They were all about the same size, about 40cm long and all of the same kind. They look similar to the dead fishes that floated up at Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Buloh last year.
This seems to have happened recently, possibly since the last high tide because the fishes are not rotted away and were washed up just below the high spring tide line. Here's more fishes washed up among the mangrove roots.
I managed to hobble to Platform 1 which has a view of some of the Western floating fish farms closest to Sungei Buloh.
The water around the fish farms was littered with floating dead farm fishes, all the way from the fish farms to the shoreline at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
There was a particularly big cluster of floating dead farm fishes (blue arrow) near Pulau Buloh. The red arrow points out the fish farms nearby.
A closer look at the big cluster of floating dead farm fishes near Pulau Buloh.
There were people on this floating fish farm. The white spots on the photo foreground are floating dead farm fishes.
The farm seems to be amply provided with waste bins.
And there were people on a small boat. So why are they ignoring the dead farm fishes floating around them and not disposing of the dead fishes responsibly?
A closer look at the floating fish farm and what is happening on the Johor shore.
It looks like a lot of reclamation and construction is going on there.
The fish farms in the photos above are pointed out in the blue arrows in the Google Earth screen shot below. The yellow line is the route I walked today. Unfortunately, The Broken Foot didn't allow me to do more and I couldn't make it to the Lim Chu Kang Jetty.
There are about 60 floating fish farms near Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Buloh. These are all licenced by AVA who ostensibly regulate farming practices. The yellow line along the Johor Strait is the international boundary between Singapore and Malaysia.
The wild fishes seemed to be alright. The blue arrows are our wild square-tailed mullets swimming happily around under the dead farm fish. I asked and Shannon Lim of OnHand Agrarian kindly told me: "The dead fishes are farmed grey mullet that were imported from Taiwan. Which is ridiculously weird considering Singapore has a more efficient, adapted local variety that breeds like rats on tongkat ali, in and around the cages of the farmed imported grey mullet." Yes, I do wonder why Singapore farms don't raise native fishes which are better adapted to our waters?
Wild halfbeaks swimming happily around a floating dead farm fish.
More wild fishes that look alright.
One of the wild fishes seen. I'm not sure what it is.
There were lots of the usual wild fishes under the Main Bridge looking healthy.
They were mostly halfbeaks and archerfishes.
There was a small healthy looking crocodile near the Main Bridge. It ignored the dead farm fish floating into the Reserve with the incoming tide.
With the rising incoming tide, MORE dead fishes washed into the Reserve.
Thousands of dead fishes seen floating in with the incoming tide from the Main Bridge at Sungei Buloh
More dead farm fishes floating in from the Johor Strait at the mouth of Sungei Buloh river.
Closer look at the dead farm fishes floating in large numbers with the rising tide.
There was a massive incident of mass fish deaths among the Eastern fish farms (near Pulau Ubin) in Feb 2014. Just last week, at Pulau Ubin there were early signs of a plankton bloom with brown 'teh-o' water and AVA sending an sms alert to farmers there.

I don't know how extensive this recent incident at the Western fish farms is. But if it serious, I hope AVA stops farms from continuing to dump dead fishes into the water. AVA should also provide manpower and other resources to help clean up the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve of the dead farm fishes. The rotting fishes make the Reserve smell like a giant salted fish factory, already drawing comments from the few visitors I met today. It is not fair to expect Buloh staff and volunteers to clean up what the farmers are dumping into the water. The Easter long weekend begins tomorrow. There will be lots of visitors to the Reserve then and they will be certain to notice this incident and ask questions.


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