02 March 2015

Thousands of dead fishes still washing up; with otter surprise!

Thousands of dead fishes are still washing up on the 9 locations on north-eastern Singapore that I surveyed today. From Punggol to Pasir Ris and Changi. Wild and farmed fishes, large and small. This is worrying.
I also saw an otter near the dead fishes. Fortunately, it seems alright. Google tells me otters can be hurt or killed by red tides, but I'm not sure how accurate this is. Perhaps experts can help share more about the threat to otters of plankton blooms and mass fish deaths. Here's a discussion of this on facebook.

I started at Punggol Marina Country Club where Darrin Neil had reported: "Yesterday (28 Feb) there was nothing. Today (1 Mar) the marina was littered with thousands of (dead) fish. Barracuda, puffer fish, cat fish, grouper and even a sea snake."
There were indeed some dead and rotting fishes in the water and stuck on the seawall. They don't appear to be freshly dead. Some were wild fishes, others appear to be farmed fishes.
I then stopped over at Punggol Jetty where it seems the cleaners had already cleared the high tide line. There was a strong fishy smell from the bags and many flies buzzing around them.
But the receeding tide had deposited more large dead fishes.
Some of the fishes were wild (scat, toadfish, flatfish), others look like farmed fishes.
On the very high shore, missed by the cleaners, was a large clump of wild fishes. Mostly toadfishes and some scat.
I stopped by at the Lorong Halus Jetty which is operated by AVA and services the Eastern fish farmers who were very badly hit by mass fish deaths. There were some wild fishes floating at the Jetty.
Huge pufferfish and scat.
The entire Jetty was quiet, with about 4 workers with a few black rubbish bags, waiting for the truck to lay down the skid tank. There were no other boats nor large groups of people bringing dead fish to the Jetty.
This morning Youna Lyons already shared sightings of dead fishes at Pasir Ris which I have already shared on facebook here.
Photo by Youna Lyons
While yesterday night (1 Mar), Sean, Sankar and Ing Sind had surveyed high tide to see if the dead fishes are affecting Pasir Ris mangroves. Sankar shared that "At the boundary between the mangroves and the shore, many fish have washed up".
Photo by Sankar.
When I reached Pasir Ris near Carpark E near noon, it seems the poor cleaners had been hard at work clearing the high tide line of many dead fishes.
But more dead fishes had been deposited after they cleaned the shore.
With a large assortment of wild fishes of all kinds of shapes and sizes.
I finally saw the humungous pufferfishes that Sean Yap, Sankar and Ing Sind had been sharing. There were also many large catfishes and eel-tail catfishes. As well as large cuttlefishes.
Here's a special wild fish: some kind of boxfish.
There were also many (more than 10) of these elongated fishes. Probably a burrowing goby?
There were also many large fishes that look like farmed fishes.
The deposits of dead fishes was thick at the area outside the Park proper which is not cleaned.
I made a brief stop at Pasir Ris off Carpark A and the cleaner had already piled all the dead fishes on the mid-water mark.
He must have been working all morning and still haven't managed to clear everything. I feel for him.
More humungous pufferfish.
Large dead fishes, dead horseshoe crab.
This morning at Changi, Serin Subaraj and Germaine Leng found a dead seahorse washed up. Also a worm. When the base of the food chain gets affected, it cannot be good. Thanks to Sean Yap for the alert. [Update 4 Mar: Koh Kwan Siong also shared that at Changi, he saw toadfish, seabass, juvenile groupa.]
Photo by Serin Subaraj.
I made a quick stop at Changi Sailing Club and more cleaning is in progress even though it's lunch time. Poor cleaners.
But on the low water mark, more dead fishes washing up. Some look like farmed fishes, others wild fishes.
In the water, more large dead fishes are floating in.
Another quick stop at Changi Carpark 3 and more dead fishes litter the low water mark.
Most of them seem to be farmed fishes.
What is going on here? Poor fishes.
I also stopped at Changi Carpark 6 and the beach was clear of fishes except for a few large farmed fishes.
At Changi Carpark 7 there was a scatter of large dead fishes along the low water mark. Some farmed fishes like these.
And a few wild fishes like these.

[Update 4 Mar: Thanks to Shahrer Sam'on for sharing these photos taken from Changi Boardwalk on 2 Mar:

Ivan Kwan of Monday Morgue also shared his thoughts about the mass fish deaths. He said: "The scale of this year's mass death has been really alarming; a similar event took place in February 2014, but it seems like last year's was less severe compared to what's happened over the last 2 weeks. These episodes have been blamed on plankton blooms, which makes me wonder about the health and resilience of our marine ecosystems. It is worrying to think that this could become a regular occurrence."

What is happening at the fish farms?

This morning, a video of dead fishes floating around the fish farms was shared by Sea Angel Boatfishing on facebook.

Philip Lim also shared the fish farmers' point of view of mass fish deaths

AVA treat fish farmers like "slaves", say fish farmer from The Online Citizen on Vimeo.

Fish farmer says that AVA has not helped them nor took actions for predicted HAB from The Online Citizen on Vimeo.

What are mass fish deaths and what causes them?

Wikipedia has a good entry on fish kills which highlights: "Fish kills are often the first visible signs of environmental stress and are usually investigated as a matter of urgency by environmental agencies to determine the cause of the kill. Many fish species have a relatively low tolerance of variations in environmental conditions and their death is often a potent indicator of problems in their environment that may be affecting other animals and plants and may have a direct impact on other uses of the water."

My thoughts about the mass fish deaths

The large numbers of wild and farmed fishes that I saw today over many locations on our north-eastern shores is worrying. I hope scientists and authorities are looking into the extent of the mass fish deaths, what is causing this and what steps can be taken to improve the health of the ecosystems to avoid a recurrence of such mass deaths.  I hope AVA is helping all fish farmers to dispose of their dead fishes properly.

If there is a positive side to this very sad situation, it is perhaps that more people have come to realise that Singapore's shores are rich in marine life. As this SGAG article demonstrates.

You CAN make a difference: Dead Fish Alert!

Please help me monitor dead fishes washing up on the Johor Straits. Please let me know if you see large numbers (more than 10) especially of large dead fishes (more than 20cm long) washing up on the northern shores such as Pulau Ubin, Lim Chu Kang, Sungei Buloh, Kranji, Sembawang, Punggol, Pasir Ris, Changi.

Thank you!

More info about why it is important to find out what is killing these fishes, and lots more links, in this previous post.


  1. It is just really really sad to see our precious marine environment in such a state. I kayak the pasir ris area every weekend and have never seen anything like this before... Perhaps I missed last year's algae bloom. Whilst out sea I encountered numerous catfish and eels hug Kayak jostling for leverage seemingly trying to "breathe", it's just heartbreaking. I really hope the relevant authorities can DO SOMETHING about the sustainability issue in that area or with regards to our entire marine environment in general!!! Obviously some environmental factors cannot be mitigated but surely there must something we do to better protect our beloved sea. We are an island nation after all I think that says something?

  2. Thank you Alex for sharing your important sighting. So sad to hear this. Yes, I do hope something can be done to bring our beloved sea back to good health.



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