Mass fish deaths in Johor farms due to reclamation work: Farmers

JOHOR - A dozen fish farms in the waters of Tanjung Kupang in Johor state experienced mass fish deaths earlier this month, which farmers say was caused by massive reclamation work.

The fish deaths in the area near Kampung Pendas in Gelang Patah - which is known for its crabs - early last month were massive, bringing up sea creatures such as sea horses and moray eel from the sea, the Malaysian Insider reported yesterday, quoting fish farmers.

This is not the first time the area has been hit by mass fish deaths, but while previous cases were attributed to plankton blooms, caused by changes in water temperature, poor water circulation and more than the usual nutrient levels in the water, farmers whom the Malaysian Insider website spoke to suspect that the massive land-reclamation project for the nearby Forest City development has also contributed to the deaths. The project was worth RM600 billion (S$225 billion), the website said.

The developer for Forest City, Country Garden Pacific View (CGPV), is building four man-made islands in the waters of Tanjung Kupang between south-west Johor and north-west of Singapore.

A mixed-development project, it will include residential and commercial lots and take 30 years to complete.

The Department of Environment approved the project's detailed environmental impact assessment report (DEIA) in January, although the company that had prepared the DEIA report had raised caution about the project's impact on the seabed, the New Straits Times had reported.

According to reports, CGPV is a joint venture between China's Country Garden Holdings and Esplanade Danga 88, whose main shareholder is the Sultan of Johor.

"I lost RM1,000 in two weeks as I didn't catch anything," fish farmer Aziz Sulaiman, 67, who usually earns up to RM2,000 (S$750) a fortnight from the 20 traps he sets up, told the Malaysian Insider.

Mr Yusaini Majid, 35, who has been working on a fish farm for more than three years, said that his employer was going to close it down.

"This will be our last month operating. The boss is upset, he doesn't want to farm fish any more because they keep dying," he told the website.