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Hidden Saviours of Our Seas - Seaweed and Mussels in Combating Algal Blooms and guarding Our Kelongs

Have you ever wondered where the fish you eat comes from? If you think that they are all imported, think again. In 2019, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) reported that our local farms produced 10% of fish consumed. We would like to introduce you to our offshore fish farms or kelongs, mostly located in the Northern Shores of Singapore and some of the issues they face.

A kelong is an offshore wooden platform found mostly in the waters around Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. What once used to be a Malay fishing village, Singapore now sees only a handful of kelongs due to rapid urbanisation, increasing costs and the lack of new licenses. Technically speaking, traditional kelongs are different from fish farms in the way they rear their fish. The funnel-like structure of a kelong guides fish into the centre, where fish are trapped in a net that is collected daily for sale.

Image Source: Ocean Purpose Project

Fish farming involves breeding fish commercially in enclosures. Young fish, or fry, are imported from other waters and reared until they are big enough to sell. Today, about half the fish consumed globally are produced in fish farms as overfishing continues to deplete natural stocks to unsustainable levels.

With the latest announcement of Singapore’s 2021 Budget by DPM Heng Swee Keat which includes a $60 million agri-food cluster transformation fund to boost local production through technology, developed fish farms with the expertise, money and technology to replicate ideal conditions may soon wipe out more “traditional” kelongs run by our beloved aunties and uncles. This is also highly in line with SFA’s “30 by 30” plan to produce 30% of our nutritional needs locally by 2030. What will happen to our kelong operators who lack the infrastructure and support to produce more fish and who are increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change?

Algal Blooms

Just 2 months ago, a phenomenon occurred along the waters of Sentosa Cove where residents reported pink water, mass fish kill and a foul, sewage-like stench. Further investigations discovered the cause to be an algal bloom triggered by a high nutrient level and organic content in the water due to heavy and continuous rainfall. High nutrient levels and warming water deplete oxygen levels in the water, suffocating fish and leading to mass fish kill.


Image Source: EarthHow