Rapid deployment of canvas systems to create a simple closed containment unit, which can be used during plankton blooms to safeguard fish stock.
Local farms account for 10% of Singapore’s fish supply. In recent years, this supply and farmers’ livelihood have been threatened by plankton bloom, a natural phenomenon that has caused much damage to our farmers’ fish stocks. As these potentially devastating blooms have occurred more than once and are likely to reoccur, it is important to stay vigilant and prepared in handling such a crisis. AVA adopts a multi-pronged strategy to help our farmers mitigate the impacts.
Within AVA, our team of officers closely monitors the water quality around coastal fish farms. A real-time online water quality monitoring system was built and farmers can access it through their mobile phones. We also created a new colour-coded SMS alert system to provide fish farmers with timely warnings on the different stages of a plankton bloom situation. In the event that an elevated plankton level is detected, AVA sends an alert to farmers so that they can deploy appropriate mitigation actions to save their fish stocks.
Since adverse environmental factors such as plankton blooms cannot be controlled, it is important to have contingency plans in place. These plans need to provide effective solutions that are practical to deploy.
In the event of a plankton bloom, AVA recommends the safe and viable option of using canvases to protect fish stocks. We collaborated with Temasek Polytechnic and the Workforce Development Authority to equip farmers with the knowledge on how to rapidly deploy canvas bags to create a simple closed containment unit, which can be used during plankton blooms to safeguard fish stock.
Besides capacity building, our officers also went the extra mile to follow-up with these farmers to help them tailor their contingency plans to suit their needs. During the last plankton bloom, AVA’s field response teams helped farms to deploy canvases and conducted emergency harvests to save market-sized fishes. We also provided fish disposal services to clear dead fishes from the waters.
For longer-term solutions, AVA encourages coastal farmers to adopt the Closed Containment Aquaculture Systems and Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) as effective and bio-secure indoor fish production methods. For example, AVA worked with Swee Chioh Fishery, a local land-based fish hatchery, to set up a RAS and develop accompanying culture protocols for large-scale indoor seabass larviculture.
In addition, AVA initiated a business matching session for local fish farmers and buyers (importers, caterers, restaurateurs, and retailers). By helping to expand their network of buyers, farmers can have the opportunity to sell more fishes and reduce their stock in anticipation of upcoming plankton blooms.
On 3 August 2016, Minister for National Development Mr Lawrence Wong presented AVA with the Minister’s Award (Team) for the development of a multi-pronged approach to dealing with plankton blooms in Singapore waters.
Besides harming local fish stocks, plankton blooms could also have impacts on other aspects such as marine biodiversity, desalination plant operations, as well as affect members of the public who visit public beaches.
AVA set up an Inter-Agency Plankton Bloom Working Group to ensure close monitoring and timely updates on any signs of plankton blooms. Together with the 10 government organisations, we also co-developed an Inter-agency Management Framework to manage plankton bloom events, including peacetime surveillance. These agencies are: Ministry of National Development, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, Ministry of Health, National Environment Agency, National Parks Board, Public Utilities Board, Housing and Development Board, Maritime and Port Authority, JTC Corporation, and Police Coast Guard.
Food for Thought is a digital publication by
© 2021 Singapore Food Agency
Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020