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Mr Gary Chang (left), explaining the canvas bagging and simple filtration system to MOS Mr Maliki (centre)
and AVA CEO Ms Tan Poh Hong (right).

The Key to Tackling Plankton Bloom: Early Mitigation &
Resilience Building

Early mitigation is key, as those who took timely precautions salvaged
a considerable amount of fish stocks. AVA is also actively seeking
long-term solutions to help enhance resilience of local fish farms.

In late February 2015, many local fish farms at the East Johor Straits were affected by a plankton bloom*. Large stocks of fish were wiped out from these farms as a result.

AVA actively monitors the plankton situation in fish farming areas. In January, we began alerting fish farmers to the adverse weather conditions and notified them to monitor the situation closely. When plankton levels rose in mid-February, farmers in both the east and west Johor Straits areas were advised to take the following precautions:

As plankton bloom peaked in late February, several farmers in the East Johor Straits suffered devastating loss of fish stocks. However, those who heeded the advice to take early precautions were able to significantly minimise losses.

Early Mitigation is Key

“Plankton bloom occurrences are very difficult to prevent, but it is possible to reduce the impact. Whilst we provide assistance to help farmers tide over this difficult period, it is also important for farmers to do their part to take mitigating measures early,” said Minister of State for National Development and Defence, Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, when he visited two of the affected fish farms in the East Johor Straits.

One farmer who took mitigating measures early was Mr Gary Chang of San Lay Marine Culture Co. After AVA sounded the first warning to the farmers on 30 January 2015, he lined his net-cages with canvas and installed a simple filtration system to maintain the water quality. He also transferred other batches of fish to alternative sites. His losses this year were only 10-percent of last year’s plankton incident.

MOS Mr Maliki meeting farmers who faced problems with salvaging their stock.

Building Resilience and Contingency Plans

Moving forward, AVA will help farmers learn from their counterparts who have installed resilient systems. Farmers can also tap on AVA’s Agriculture Productivity Fund to purchase relevant equipment to enhance their resilience.

Beyond these, AVA will be helping affected farms develop feasible contingency plans that will effectively provide protection against such environmental impacts.

Dealing with Plankton Bloom in the Long Term

Following last year’s plankton bloom episode, AVA began collaborating with the Tropical Marine Science Institute of National University of Singapore to research on plankton blooms and effective mitigating solutions in the long term. These studies are on-going.

In addition, AVA called for proposals for the design and development of a closed-containment aquaculture system for coastal fish farming last year. We awarded the tender, and five companies are working on systems that will primarily minimise exposure to environmental changes, such as plankton bloom.

AVA’s CEO Ms Tan Poh Hong said, “We look forward to working with them on the projects. We hope that the projects can bring about significant improvements to boost the resilience of fish farming.”

*Plankton are microorganisms found in the seawater that can bloom or multiply quickly (referred to a “bloom”) in a very short period of time. Such blooms can be triggered by a combination of environmental factors.