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Maliki Osman, Environment

Farmers affected by recent mass fish deaths to get help: Maliki

Published on Feb 18, 2014 4:24 PM
Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman consoling fish farmer Mr Goh Joo Hiang, 60, as he visits coastal fish farmers along the East Johor Straits off the Changi Point jetty affected by recent mass fish deaths. Fish farmers still reeling from losses caused by mass fish deaths in recent weeks will get a helping hand, said Mr Maliki on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG 

Fish farmers still reeling from losses caused by mass fish deaths in recent weeks will get a helping hand, said Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman on Tuesday.

One of the first steps authorities can take is to help fish farm owners, especially those with poor aeration systems, develop their equipment to better meet production targets and cope better with sudden changes in environmental conditions.

The mass deaths started about three weeks ago, and were due to plankton blooms brought about by a double whammy of high temperatures and low tides.

"We want to turn this situation from adversity to opportunity... how we can actually facilitate them improving their systems such that future occurences may be prevented," Mr Maliki said.

Farmers may also receive help from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) in buying fish fry, or get greater subsidies.

Mr Maliki's commments were prompted by questions from Nominated MP Faizah Jamal, who had also asked if fish farms which do not comply with regulations set by the AVA would have their licences revoked.

This could be due to improper waste disposal, such as dumping dead fish into the open sea, or failing to meet production targets. Fish farms here must produce 17 tonnes of fish per half hectare of farm space to keep their licences.

Mr Maliki said revoking licenses would be a "worst-case scenario", aimed at farm owners who have failed over several years to meet licensing conditions.

He added: "But I think the way to go right now is to help them. We want to help the farmers, because this is their livelihood. We want to try to be sympathetic."

Ms Faizah also asked about waste disposal services for fish farms here.

Mr Maliki said fish farms along the East Johor Straits will have a central disposal system when a new jetty at Lorong Halus is ready this quarter.