Fish deaths: Fish farmers mentally prepared for more losses, and resigned to fate

The plankton bloom that hit fish farms along the Johor Strait has caused millions of dollars in losses, and plenty of heartache. But while some farmers have decided to simply take it on the chin, others are fighting back. The Straits Times speaks to five farms.

It has been a tough weekend for 65-year-old fish farmer Ong Kim Pit.

On Friday, his Lim Chu Kang fish farm was hit by mass fish deaths, which had first affected farms in the east of the island.

He lost more than 60,000 baby and adult mullet fish, with losses estimated at $10,000.

But he appears to be resigned to his fate.

He said he is aware there are closed rearing systems that can help to isolate fish from the harmful effects of plankton blooms.

But the farmer, who has been in the business for about 20 years, said he is not going to stop using net cages, in which fish are reared in the sea.

When asked why, he said rearing fish in containers is "not so simple" because of the heavy costs involved.

There are also limits on how much fish one can raise in a container, he added.

Besides, the father of three sons, aged 27 to 34, plans to retire in a few years' time. And he does not want his kids to take over his business as it is a hard life.

"You have to be in the sun and rain a lot and, frankly, I think young people are scared of that," said Mr Ong.

He said he buys his mullet and milkfish fingerlings from Indonesia and feeds them bread and instant noodles for about 11/2 years before he sells them.

He said a similar plankton bloom could see him suffer more loses.

"If I can clear my stock quickly, I'll do it," he added.

"The only other thing I can do is to prepare myself mentally. Once the bloom comes, the fish will be gone."