KUALA LUMPUR, March 6, 2015:
Hundreds of tonnes of fish, both farmed and wild were washed up on the Straits of Johor, between Malaysia and Singapore causing fish farmers thousands of ringgit in losses.
According to reports in BBC.Com one farmer, Bryan Ang, woke up on board his floating fish farm and found nearly all his stock dead.
Dead sea creatures, ranging from sea snakes, seahorses to squid and moray eel began floating up on the beaches.
Nature guide and environmental biology student Sean Yap, who supplied some of the pictures to the BBC, said he was jogging along the eastern Pasir Ris beach on Saturday evening when he got a foul stench.
It came from what he described as a “mass grave” — thousands of dead fish washed up on shore.
“There were cleaners present on the shore on Sunday morning to deal with the rotting fish, but when we returned at night the high tide had brought in a new batch of dead fish.”
According to BBC.Com, environmental authorities said the deaths were due to a plankton bloom, where a species of plankton multiplied rapidly, damaging the gills of fish.
This can be triggered by sudden changes in temperature, high nutrient levels in the water and poor water circulation.
Yap said he found it alarming that even species such as catfish and burrowing gobies, considered to be more resilient, were found dead.
There have been similar mass fish deaths in the past five years, but this time round, the authorities had given an early warning to farmers — giving them time to move their stocks into protective nets, activate pumps to keep the water moving or even float their entire farm to safer areas.
Some managed to save their stocks, but few had neither anticipated the intensity of the plankton bloom nor how quickly it would strike, killing the fish en masse within hours.
Several fish farmers told the BBC that rapid development in the western part of the Johor straits, the Malaysian state closest to Singapore, was one of the factors affecting the water quality.
“The plankton bloomed this fast because the nutrient content in the sea is so high. And where are all these nutrients coming from? Land reclamation in Malaysia,” according to another farmer.
Singapore has also reclaimed parts of its northern coast, dammed up estuaries in the northeast to create reservoirs.
It has pumped millions of dollars into the fish farming industry to boost its domestic food security.
Latest government figures show there are now 117 fish farms in waters surrounding the island, spread out over 102ha, twice the amount of space compared with a decade ago.
Dr Lim Po Teen, a marine scientist with the University of Malaya, said climate change was in part to blame for the blooms, by affecting temperatures and weather patterns.
“But on a local level, you can see the number of farms increasing in the last few years”, he said, which is directly increasing the level of nutrients in the water from fish food and waste.
“We need to have very strict controls and improve the water circulation.”