Parliament: Premature to relocate fish farms over plankton blooms, says Maliki

SINGAPORE - Even as researchers study what caused the plankton blooms that saw mass fish deaths recently, it is premature to relocate fish farms at this moment, said Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman on Monday.

Earlier this year, about 600 tonnes of fish died, with farms near the East Johor Strait the worst hit.

Responding to Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, Dr Maliki said his ministry is studying the causes of plankton bloom to see whether they are "simply ad-hoc events or regular occurrences."

Until then, "it is premature to determine whether there is a need for fish farmers to relocate away from the Johor Straits, and whether plankton blooms will significantly hinder us from reaching our 15 per cent local fish production target", he said.

Plankton is a main food source for sea creatures but an unexpected population explosion can suffocate them. Such blooms could be triggered by factors such as dry weather and pollution.

Dr Maliki said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) monitors indicators of water quality, such as plankton count and dissolved oxygen, at coastal fish-farming areas.

As such, it was able to alert fish farmers of the impending plankton bloom well-ahead of time this year, he said.

He added: "Those who heeded AVA's advice averted the worst of the fish kills."

He also advised farmers to take steps to minimise the impact of another plankton bloom, should they occur.

While the AVA will help farmers to develop contingency plans, "fish farmers must also modernise their farming methods so that they are better protected", he said suggesting that they can tap on the AVA's Agriculture Productivity Fund to do so.