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Fish Farmers Reeling In Researchers In Singapore

Education & academia

SINGAPORE - Singapore fish farmers are trying to move towards high-tech research and farming methods that minimise their environmental impact as the number of farms grows.

The burgeoning industry has been looking to science to protect the environment - for example, by monitoring water quality and cutting pollution - and produce more and better fish, reports

Much of that is driven by the Singapore Government’s food security aims. It hopes to boost local fish supplies from five per cent of national consumption to 15 per cent in the next five years.

The number of fish farms has grown in the last few years. There were 106 licensed offshore last year, up from 92 in 2005. On land, there are two freshwater fish farms, and three marine-fish and prawn farms.

In June, three fish farmers installed an early-warning system to monitor water quality after fish died off in large numbers when a plankton bloom struck off Pasir Ris last year. At another high-tech farm, SIF Agrotechnology Asia, young sea bass that are usually farmed offshore are being raised on land using a chemical-free water recirculation system, which protects them from changes in water quality.

The venture by local water treatment firm SIF Technologies is opening a 1ha hatchery in Pasir Ris at the end of this month to rear fish for the local market.

The expertise of aquaculture researchers here is also in demand. For example, a joint venture by abalone growers Oceanus and Australia’s Lobster Harvest to produce slipper lobsters enlisted the help of National University of Singapore (NUS) for its hatchery research and development.

NUS emeritus professor Lam Toong Jin said he had been consulted several times in the last year on such research, by government agencies and companies.

Another NUS don, Professor Hew Choy Leong, worked on the world’s first genetically modified Atlantic salmon.

Most recently, a marine aquaculture research workshop held here last month was attended by about 40 delegates from Singapore and regional fish farms, government agencies and farm equipment suppliers. The workshop, by Australia’s James Cook University (JCU), was followed by a public lecture on environmental sustainability at Australian fish farms. The talk was attended by about 300 participants.

Interest in aquaculture, the farming of fish, shellfish and other aquatic organisms, is growing worldwide. According to United Nations statistics, three billion people rely on fish as a main source of protein. But fish stocks in the wild are on the decline, so farmed fish is becoming an increasingly important global food source. Aquaculture makes up about half of the world’s food-fish supply, and is set to overtake wild fish.

Source: Eco-Business