24 May 2022

Why is Singapore producing fish to export?

There are plans, under "30-by-30", to further expand fish farming in our southern waters, near some of our best reefs and shores. 
Pristine Reefs of Raffles Lighthouse with Pulau Biola on the horizon
The richest reefs of Pulau Satumu (Raffles Lighthouse)
is one of the planned locations for new fish farms.
I am surprised because it seems much of the fish currently produced in the area is EXPORTED. Wouldn't it make more sense to first ensure all the fish currently produced are actually eaten by Singapore residents? Before we risk our marine biodiversity to produce MORE fish just for export? And I have more questions...

Send YOUR questions in too: Ms Lim Swee Keng at lim_swee_keng@sfa.gov.sg The public feedback exercise ends 1 June.

According to the Singapore Food Agency (SFA):"to advance Singapore’s food security, SFA is building the agri-food industry’s capability and capacity to sustainably produce 30% of our nutritional needs locally by 2030. One of the ways is to produce fish in an environmentally sustainable manner through new sea space tenders from end-2022 onwards".

Under the "30-by-30" plan, we assume local production=local consumption. So I am surprised to learn the largest fish farm in Singapore and based in our southern waters, Barramundi Asia, doesn't sell all of its production to the local market. There is actually no clear public statistics on WHO eats any of our Singapore fish production. 

On Barramundi Asia's public website, they are actually proud of the fact that their fish is exported.
From their website: Our Reach - Singapore since 2014: over 350 restaurants and hotels, 100 retailers, airlines, e-commerce platform
Question: How much of southern waters fish production ends up on a plate in Singapore? How much of it is sold to regular folk through NTUC and Sheng Siong? Or is it only eaten by rich people in high end restaurants and specialist markets?

You can buy their fish online at $50 a kilo. Is it sold at NTUC or Sheng Siong? 
It seems Barramundi Asia's key customer target is the high end market in Singapore. Besides Marina Bay Sands, the only other entry under their 'Our Customers' tab highlights their partnership with an Australian supermarket chain 'Coles'.

Question: Why is the focus only on production? If the argument is that Singapore needs to just produce large amounts, and to disregard that regular Singapore residents don't want and can't afford to eat the fish being produced. And thus focus on companies with a track record of production of this fish...I have more questions...
Photo from SFA website

Is this local production intended to replace imports in DAILY local consumption? Then why don't the authorities focus on producing fish that regular local people want to and can afford to eat? If producing for the daily needs of ordinary people is NOT the intention of fish production, then what is the real meaning of  "30-by-30"? SFA says "to produce 30% of our nutritional needs locally by 2030" - so just produce but not actually feed regular local people?
One of the recipes featured in Barramundi Asia's
marketing brand site.

Is the production intended only to feed Singapore residents in case of supply disruptions? If so, was more of Barramundi Asia's production diverted to the local market during COVID? e.g., during the Jurong Fishery Port shutdown. 

During COVID, why did Barramundi Asia suffer a $6 million loss with nearly $2million worth of 'fish mortalities'? Was this because their export market collapsed during COVID? Or was there a massive fish death incident?

From their financial report ending June 2021.

To tide us over a crisis, why not rely on frozen fish the same way we rely on frozen stocks of other meats? e.g., chicken, pork, beef. 

Question: Why doesn't SFA provide public statistics on what amount and proportion of local fish production ends up on a local plate? Particularly since current (and planned) production is tax-funded under the "30 by 30" plan. Public funded projects should produce public data, right? Currently, only production statistics are made public.
From the Dept of Statistics Singapore website

Who eats the fish? Who pays the price?

Fish farms have environmental impact regardless of how meticulously they are run. Fish poop and uneaten fish food from tonnes of confined fish in cages affect water quality, densely packed fish are stressed and harbour diseases and pests that can spread to wild fishes, use of antibiotics impact wildlife. Tax funds are used to subsidise the fish farm under the "30 by 30" plan. Tax funds are spent to monitor and deal with environmental impacts. While profits are pocketed by a private company. Meanwhile, who eats the fish? 
Dead fishes at Lim Chu Kang Jetty, 7 Mar 2015
Mass death of farmed fishes at Lim Chu Chang, Mar 2015

Main question: Why should we risk our marine biodiversity to produce MORE fish in our southern waters, if this fish is just going to be exported or only eaten by rich people?

Long ago, pig farms were phased out from Singapore, and Singapore now relies entirely on imports of pork products. This was because pig farms took up valuable land and was very pollutive to the water and environment. Fish farms are not very different. Mass deaths of farmed and wild fish that have  happened near fish farms on our northern shores illustrate this. Why risk similar devastation in our southern waters?
Mass fish death at Pasir Ris west off Carpark E, 28 Feb 2015
Mass death of wild fish during plankton bloom
near our northern fish farms, Feb 2015.
More details on SFA's plans in this article "Fish farms may be set up near 3 southern islands with high coral diversity, endangered marine life; public feedback underway" TODAY 23 May 2022

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) is exploring the possibility of commercial fish farming in the waters off three of Singapore's southern islands to ensure food security, and is seeking public feedback on a report into the plan's potential environmental impact. The waters near the three islands — Pulau Jong, Pulau Bukom and Pulau Satumu — are home to diverse coral reefs and endangered marine species, such as fluted giant clams, according to the report and experts who spoke to TODAY.

The total size of the three proposed project sites is close to 655,000 sqm — 101,072 sqm at Pulau Jong, 101,660 sqm at Bukom and 452,074 sqm at Satumu.

More about the feedback exercise: From the Government Gazette dated 6 May 2022

Environmental Impact Assessment of Aquaculture off Pulau Satumu, Pulau Bukom and Pulau Jong

To advance Singapore’s food security, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) is building the agri-food industry’s capability and capacity to sustainably produce 30% of our nutritional needs locally by 2030. One of the ways is to produce fish in an environmentally sustainable manner through new sea space tenders from end-2022 onwards. In preparation, SFA has carried out an environmental impact assessment from September 2020 to October 2021 to determine the suitability of farming fish in sea spaces off Pulau Satumu (Raffles Lighthouse), Pulau Bukom and Pulau Jong, and to address any concerns regarding the potential impact on the environment.

SFA would like to make available the environmental impact assessment report for public feedback at its office at 52 Jurong Gateway Road, JEM Office Tower, #14-01, Singapore 608550 from 5 May to 1 June 2022.

To view the said report, please contact: Ms Lim Swee Keng at lim_swee_keng@sfa.gov.sg

SFA will consider all relevant public feedback before seeking final approval from the Government. Please contact Ms Lim Swee Keng at lim_swee_keng@sfa.gov.sg for information or to give feedback.

Send YOUR questions and your feedback too. The public feedback exercise ends 1 June.

This info was also posted to wildsingapore facebook which led to many interesting comments.


Related Posts with Thumbnails