Sharks in dental clinic's aquarium moved to open sea pen

OnHand Agrarian owner Shannon Lim trying to bring up one of the sharks to a transfer tub. He is confident the sharks will do well in the Johor Strait. The three blacktip reef sharks being moved to an open sea pen in a fish farm in the Johor Strait, a
The three blacktip reef sharks being moved to an open sea pen in a fish farm in the Johor Strait, after concerns were voiced earlier about them being kept in a clinic aquarium.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
OnHand Agrarian owner Shannon Lim trying to bring up one of the sharks to a transfer tub. He is confident the sharks will do well in the Johor Strait. The three blacktip reef sharks being moved to an open sea pen in a fish farm in the Johor Strait, a
OnHand Agrarian owner Shannon Lim trying to bring up one of the sharks to a transfer tub. He is confident the sharks will do well in the Johor Strait. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

It was moving day yesterday for three juvenile blacktip reef sharks kept in an aquarium at a dental clinic in Tanjong Pagar.

They were relocated to an open sea pen in a fish farm in the Johor Strait, the narrow body of water separating Malaysia from Singapore's northern coast.

When The Straits Times visited the Braces & Implant Dental Centre in Tras Street at about 9am yesterday, staff from OnHand Agrarian fish farm were seen preparing for the move. A plastic sheet was spread out on the clinic's carpeted floor to prevent it from getting wet as a blue tank for the transport of the sharks was filled with water.

The move comes after the sharks were spotted in the tank last December by a Ms Linda Leong, who took a video and uploaded it on Facebook.

The video prompted netizens and marine conservationists to voice their concern about the animals' welfare and ask for them to be moved to a bigger facility.

The sharks, now about 40cm long each, will grow to between 1.6m and 2.9m once they hit adulthood.

While it is not illegal to keep the sharks in a tank, conservationists worry the small space may restrict the growth of these animals.

Dr Jimmy Gian, owner of the dental clinic, said last monththe aquarium was to show the public "the beautiful side of sharks" and to change the perception that sharks are fearsome.

Blacktip reef sharks can be found in Singapore's waters, mainly in the coral reefs in the Singapore Strait.

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum fish expert Tan Heok Hui said: "Blacktip reef sharks, as the name alludes, occur mainly in coral reef habitats. The Johor Strait has less salinity than Singapore Strait, owing to large freshwater inputs."

He added that sharks typically fare better in saline habitats compared with the estuarine conditions of Singapore's northern waters.

Mr Shannon Lim, 32, owner of OnHand Agrarian, said he has seen other species of sharks, such as nurse sharks, in the Johor Strait and is confident the blacktips will do well there. There are no plans to release the sharks into the wild as they come from Indonesia, he said, and it would not be ideal to mix them with native sharks.

"We have suggested that the clinic rear estuarine fish that are less wide-ranging, such as seahorses and seagrass filefish. These species are more confined to a smaller area."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2018, with the headline 'Sharks in dental clinic's aquarium moved to open sea pen'. Print Edition | Subscribe