Fish farms to get free advice on disease management and testing support

The consultation exercise will help farmers develop, refine and implement a biosecurity and management plan for their farms. PHOTO: KOH POH KOON/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Efforts to control disease in Singapore's fish farms will get a boost from early next year when a service offering free consultations from veterinarians and other experts comes online.

The Aquatic Animal Health Services (AAHS) will see fish farmers get advice from veterinarians and aquatic animal health professionals on disease management. It will also support farmers' testing needs, said the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) in a statement on Wednesday.

The consultation exercise will help farmers develop, refine and implement a biosecurity and management plan for their farms, and will include advice on preventive medicine and mentoring of farm staff, SFA said.

Biosecurity refers to measures to stop the introduction and spread of harmful organisms such as viruses or bacteria to farmed plants and animals.

AAHS will also help farms get scientifically verified diagnoses.

SFA launched a tender for the AHHS on Wednesday, and it is expected to begin operations early next year.

The agency will fund two consultations and two disease investigations a year for each farm for the first two years of the programme.

This will be scaled back to one consultation and one disease investigation a year for the next two years.

Farmers will have to pay for medication, chemicals, vaccines and transport, as well as any additional consultations and disease investigations.

Mr Malcolm Ong, chief executive of The Fish Farmer, believes AAHS will help reduce costs, help weaker fish survive, and also boost productivity.

His company owns four farms in Singapore and produces about 1,000 tonnes of fish such as Asian seabass and red snapper a year, which go to supermarkets, wholesalers and food and beverage businesses.

Said Mr Ong: "All farms have to contend with disease in the form of viruses, bacteria or parasites. There is a natural mortality rate and every batch of fish naturally produces some which are stronger and some which are weaker.

"We're now working in a high-cost environment and this will help us to produce more with less."

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Koh Poh Koon said over 20 farms have expressed interest in the service.

Dr Koh, who is also Senior Minister of State for Manpower, strongly encouraged aquaculture firms here to tap the service.

In 2021, Singapore had 27 land-based seafood farms and another 110 based in the sea.

The Republic produced about 5,000 tonnes of seafood last year, accounting for about 8 per cent of all food the country consumed.

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