Fish farms may be set up near Singapore's southern islands with high coral diversity

Updated: Jun 15


There has been a flurry of news and comments by representatives of DHI, Nature Society, Marine Stewards and NUS regarding perceived impact of fish farming at the Seas around the Southern Islands.


Comments ranging from quality of discharge from traditional farms cannot be monitored as compared to contained systems (by DHI) which is expected to have “limited impact on the ecosystem.” This is echoed by Marine Stewards and Nature Society that closed containment systems are a better mitigation strategy. Another novel proposition is that open cage fish farms attract predators and pose a danger to the public. The NUS spokesperson goes further to mention the devastating impact of open cage fish farms to water flow, coral reefs, marine animal movement and more.


Do note that no fish farmers & fisher folk, many of whom are inter-generational and family-based are interviewed in the TODAY News. Many of these fisheries industry folks have empirical and historical data/opinion on water quality then and now through observation of marine life decline and fisheries stock (wild catch and migratory)

Source: Kelongs and The Johor Straits 1976 Source: Ian Kuah, Pioneer Magazine

Open cage fish farms (kelongs) existed before the founding of Singapore and have fed many Singaporeans for generations. These fish farms become part of the natural ecosystem as it supports marine life! Any structure in the sea is precious real estate for sponges, seaweed, plants, mussels, barnacles, baby crabs, worms and more. These kelongs are also quasi-nurseries for baby fish and migratory species, not to mention larger species like otters, crocs, birds. Visit any open cage fish farm and there would be an abundance of marine life in and around it!

Source: Kelongs and The Johor Straits 1976 Source: Ian Kuah, Pioneer Magazine


As Singapore progressed, massive land reclamation, industrial discharge (warmer waters), fertiliser runoff from plantations (into straits of Johor and seas) are major contributing elements of water pollution. Any industrial rate discharge causes distress to ecosystem balance and closed container systems (industrial scale) are similarly polluting the seas, notwithstanding the “monitoring of water quality”. What should be done is NEA monitoring and sampling of the waters around containment systems to verify and substantiate that these are not detrimental to marine life. On the contrary and historically, open cage fish farms are eco-friendly, low-cost, can produce high tonnage, are not pollutive as perceived by the non-practitioners and are in fact, the closest shot we have in this Food Protectionism era.


Has any empirical study been carried out in Singapore to establish beyond doubt that closed containment systems (industrial scale) will not similarly degrade/pollute the seas, notwithstanding the claim of “monitoring of water quality discharged”? What could be done is real-time NEA monitoring and sampling of the waters around containment systems to verify and substantiate that these are not detrimental to marine life. This data should be shared publicly so that fish farmers, researchers and NGOs have accurate information to propose solutions.


On the contrary, open cage fish farms have historically been eco-friendly, low cost, can produce high tonnage, are not pollutive as perceived by the non-practitioners and when proper protocols are enforced. In fact, it is the means of food production that is closest to the way food is produced in nature. It is sustainable relative to other methods of production and should not be dismissed in this Food Protectionism era.


The Fish Farmers Association of Singapore disagrees with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report that closed containment systems are environmentally less impactful than open cage farming without the necessary empirical proof. In fact, in our simple commonsensical opinion, sustainability in the long term depends on there being no over intensive production so as not to destroy/degrade the ecological balance. Does SFA have the necessary data/information to ensure this, so as not to be taken in by pollutive proposals dolled up in eco-sounding names/green wash? While on the issue of sustainability and in particular economic sustainability, has SFA done any studies to estimate what the 18,200 tonnes of anticipated seafood production from this initiative will cost and whether the estimated cost of production gives promise of profitability to make the whole project economically sustainable?


Learn more about the official position of the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore in this feedback letter. For access to the PDF version of the article:

FFAS southern island feedback
.pdf
Download PDF • 211KB



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