The SFA tender hopes to quantify the effects of aquaculture activities on the local environment and identify mitigation measures, while also maximising production levels.
When speaking to The Straits Times about the research, a spokesperson for the Singapore Food Agency said that the agency will work with fish farms to ensure that their current activities do not negatively impact future farming capacity in their local area. "As production levels from aquaculture, especially from open-cage farming systems, are dependent on the condition of the farming site... it is in the interest of farms to safeguard the condition of the... site,” a SFA spokesperson said.
Fish farms in the East Johor Strait grow a selection of high-value species like hybrid grouper and Asian sea bass. There are about 50 licensed ocean farms in the area. Two of the sites are closed-containment facilities.
A key part of the research focuses on the “carrying capacity” of the Strait’s ecosystem. According to Professor Dean Jerry, an aquaculture expert at James Cook University, a site’s carrying capacity is a state of equilibrium where the environment can cope with farming activities, and regenerate quickly so the ecosystem remains sustainable long-term. Identifying the carrying capacity will allow aquaculture operators to hit a “sweet spot” where their fish are fed to maximise their growth potential without causing environmental damage. Conducting aquaculture within this framework will allow producers to maximise production and maintain fish health without causing any deterioration in water quality or the wider ecosystem.