20 October 2014

What is AVA doing about dead farm fishes being dumped into the water?

I am impressed by the immediate cleanup of dead farm fishes from Lim Chu Kang. This is what I saw on 17 Oct (Fri). A line of freshly dead farm fishes washed up on the mid-water mark, with lots more fishes floating in the water as far as the eye could see.
And this is what I saw on 18 Oct (Sat). No freshly dead fishes anywhere on the shore.
But there are still a lot of unaswered questions about the recent fish deaths and how AVA is dealing with fish farm trash. Here are details of my correspondence with AVA on the issues.

AVA had emailed to inform of their action to clean up the dead farm fishes that washed up on the shore recently. Earlier, AVA also updated on coastal fish farms waste management.

On 17 Oct (Fri) 7pm I received this email from AVA

We refer to your blog “Lots of dead farm fishes washed up at Lim Chu Kang” published on 17 October 2014.

2. Our contractors had been activated yesterday to help the Lim Chu Kang fish farmers with the dead fish and that efforts are being taken to ensure its proper disposal.

3. Floating dead fishes are being scooped away while the farmers and their workers are also bringing in dead fish to be disposed on land at the containers provided at Lim Chu Kang (LCK) Jetty. Our waste disposal company will be making additional trips to remove the fish from the containers.

4. We are monitoring the situation closely and providing assistance to the fish farmers.

On 8 Oct (Wed), I received this email from AVA

We refer to our meeting in March 2014 and would like to share with you what has been done by AVA so far on the management of fish farm waste.

Implementation of centralised waste disposal for Eastern Johor Straits (EJS) fish farmers

2. As you are aware, the Lorong Halus Jetty commenced operations in July 2014, where covered waste bins for food waste and a skid tank for bulky inorganic waste are provided for EJS fish farmers’ use. At the Lim Chu Kang Jetty, a centralised waste disposal system has already been implemented for the Western Johor Straits (WJS). The fish farms located at the southern islands are landing at AVA’s Jurong Fishery Port, where their waste is disposed.

Inspection and monitoring for illegal waste disposal

3. Routine inspections and unannounced raids are held, including weekends, to monitor any illegal disposal of waste by our fish farmers into the waters. Enforcement actions will be taken against offenders who are caught. Members of the public could also help provide feedback to AVA of any illegal waste disposal by our fish farmers.

Contingency plans for disposal of dead fish in events of mass fish kill

4. Contingency plans, including door-to-door waste collection are in place. AVA could respond to events of mass fish kill and help fish farmers deal with the sudden increase in volume of dead fish and ensure its proper disposal. The cost for a regular door-to-door waste collection is still too high for fish farmers to bear compared to having centralised waste collection and disposal at the landing points. AVA will continue to work with the agencies on the management of fish farm waste.

5. Do let us know if you have further suggestions on tackling wastes from fish farms. Thank you.

My minutes of the meeting with AVA in Mar 2014 is here. I sent a letter to REACH in Feb 2014 on how door-to-door trash collection is NOT provided to any of the coastal fish farms licenced by AVA (119 farms as at Aug 2013). By providing this service, possibly 250 tonnes of trash (or more) will no longer be dumped into our waters every year. Full letter here.

My reply to both emails are below.

Thank you for updating on AVA's efforts to help Lim Chu Kang fish farmers with the dead fish.

Does AVA's routine inspections and unannounced raids allow AVA to pinpoint the fish farm(s) responsible for dumping their dead fishes that washed up at Lim Chu Kang mangroves on 17 Oct (Fri)?

If so, what enforcement actions has AVA taken against these offenders?

According to Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 14, fish that were "saved from dying at the Lim Chu Kang fisheries" were being sold at Jurong Fish Port over the past few days "at lower prices as they are not full-grown".

Is it safe to eat such fishes? Particularly given the earlier Channel NewsAsia 15 Oct 14 report that two farms in Lim Chu Kang lost about 60 tonnes of fish to Vibrio, a marine bacteria that can infect humans who consume undercooked seafood or exposed an open wound to sea water. Diarrhoea, vomiting and fever are some symptoms of the infection.

In the Channel NewsAsia 16 Oct 14 report, AVA did not refer to the earlier reports of Vibrio.

Will AVA and other authorities come up with public announcements to reassure the public on the safety of the water and fishes produced from the fish farms?

Thank you also for the updates on the centralised waste disposal for Eastern Johor Straits fish farmers at the Lorong Halus Jetty. Could AVA update on the following:

(a) How much has been collected from the covered waste bins for food waste and a skid tank for bulky inorganic waste provided there for Eastern Johor Straits fish farmers’ use?

(b) Which farms have been using the covered waste bins and skid tank?

With regard to the issues discussed at the meeting in Mar 2014, are there updates to these suggestions that I raised at the meeting?

What does the current farm licence of “S$850.00 per lot of 5,000m2 per annum” pay for?
AVA: Use of sea space. Rental to AVA. What services do the farmers get in return for this annual licence fee: technical services, evaluation, disease diagnosis, food safety.
Ria: suggested that trash collection could be absorbed under this licence fee and AVA seemed to find this idea interesting.

In the same way that daily door-to-door waste collection for all ships parked in Singapore Port is factored into port dues, can the same service be factored into AVA’s coastal fish  farm licence fees?
AVA seemed to find this idea interesting.

Background: Fees payable for Coastal/Sea farms from AVA website
  • Fish culture farm licence S$850.00 per lot of 5,000m2 per annum.
  • A security deposit of $5,000/ for each 5,000 m² or part thereof of fish culture farm should be made payable to the Authority on issuing the licence
  • Fishing Vessels servicing the fish culture farm and kelong licence S$66.00 per annum.
  • Identification card for farm workers is $2.50 per person.

How did AVA arrive at the cost of $160 per month for weekly door-to-door waste collection service?
AVA: Quote from one company.

Did AVA do an ITQ to get quotes of what the market will charge for daily door-to-door waste collection from coastal fish farms?
AVA: No. Will consider it.

Can NEA cross-subsidise the coastal fish farm trash disposal as this will reduce NEA’s expenses from cleaning trash that washes up on the shores?
AVA will consider. I suggested a pilot study to see if trash load on the shore is reduced when daily door-to-door trash collection is provided, and AVA seemed to find the idea interesting. 

Can the coastal fish farms be included in MPA’s daily door-to-door waste collection for all ships parked in Singapore Port? Especially the Southern fish farms?
AVA says it will explore with MPA. 


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