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  Straits Times Forum 17 Oct 07
Safe to eat fish, farmed or wild caught
Reply from Goh Shih Yong

Straits Times Forum 17 Oct 07
AVA should make it compulsory for retailers to state source of fish
Letter from Chen Bin

Straits Times Forum 16 Oct 07
Seafood caught in the wild may also be unsafe for consumption
Letter from Betty L Khoo-Kingsley (Ms)

Straits Times 12 Oct 07
Are farmed sea bass safe to consume?
Letter from Edmund Lim Wee Kiat

Straits Times 9 Oct 07
Fingerlings to finger-licking good
Tania Tan

Straits Times 9 Oct 9 07
Can super sea bass pass the taste test?

Channel NewsAsia 4 Oct 07
Large-scale commercial fish farming expected to ease reliance on imports

Straits Times 5 Oct 07
Singapore's very own super sea bass
Hatched in AVA's research tanks, the fast-growing, hardy fry were fattened on an offshore farm in Riau
By Tania Tan

JURONG Fishery Port was abuzz with activity yesterday as Singapore's first half-tonne shipment of 'super sea bass' arrived from Indonesia.

Hatched in the research tanks of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) Marine Aquaculture Centre (MAC) on St John's Island, the fast-growing fry were fattened for harvest on an offshore farm in Riau.

With a survival rate of up to 80 per cent, MAC's fry are twice as hardy as wild fry, and able to grow up to 15 per cent faster, reaching market size - about 500g - in under six months.

Yesterday's inaugural load is the first of many, said the AVA, as the successful harvest will help boost the Republic's future fish stocks - translating into a sustainable and affordable supply of quality fish.

The entire shipment of live sea bass was snapped up even before the fish was netted out of the sea - at a wholesale price of about $7 per kg, comparable to current market prices, said the AVA.

Supply of high-quality fresh fish has sometimes been unable to meet demand because, as MAC head Lim Huan Sein explained, 'limited supply of good-quality fry is often a bottleneck when it comes to large-scale fish farming.'

Mr Eric Tan, managing director of seafood company Marine Harvest, which operates the farm, added that poor fry survival rates often drive the costs of farming up, which in turn have a snowball effect on prices paid by suppliers and customers.

To help widen the supply net, 400,000 of the specially bred fry have been supplied to the Riau farm since last year. The farm is expected to produce up to 100 tonnes of fresh fish monthly, for the next two years - or close to 7 per cent of all sea bass eaten here.

At the same time, another 400,000 fry have been supplied to fish farms here, which have been already selling the adult sea bass to the local market over the past six months.

A large-scale marine farm in southern Singapore is also expected by the end of this year, with a projected production capacity of up to 3,000 tonnes of fish annually by next year.

Together, the farms will produce about 6 per cent of the fresh fish consumed here yearly, creating another stable supply of food for the Republic, said Mr Lim.

Singaporeans consume about 72,000 tonnes of fresh fish a year, with most coming from farms in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, said the AVA.

The special sea bass fry were produced through a 'painstaking process of selective breeding', said Mr Lim.

Generations of the fish were bred and selected for desirable qualities, including size, growth and survival rates - a process which took three years, he explained.

This is the first time that fish from the four-year-old research centre has been produced and sold on a commercial scale.

Previous projects which have yet to achieve large-scale production include a 2004 pilot effort involving golden pomfret, which are reared here in deep-net cages, allowing for more fish to be stocked than traditional shallow coastal cages.

The new sea bass have proven to be a hit with restaurants here, and plans are under way to boost production of MAC's super fry.

And with the success of the sea bass project, researchers at MAC are turning their attention to other popular fish species, including red snapper and cobia.

Looking at the wriggling sea bass, some weighing up to 3kg, Mr Lim said: 'It's a proud moment.'

Channel NewsAsia 4 Oct 07
Large-scale commercial fish farming expected to ease reliance on imports

SINGAPORE: Singapore on Thursday morning welcomed the first batch of seabass that was developed by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and then grown commercially.

AVA said large-scale farming of tropical food fish in Singapore and regional waters is now commercially viable, and it hoped Singaporeans can soon expect a constant fish supply at stable prices.

The young of the fish had been hatched using special aquaculture technology, developed by the AVA's Marine Aquaculture Centre. The fry were then sold to Marine Harvest, a commercial fish farm that operates in waters off Riau Islands.

When fully matured, the harvested seabass are expected to help ease Singapore's reliance on wild-caught fish from overseas.

"We hope to maintain a ready supply… through our efforts, there'll be a ready supply of affordable, safe, wholesome fish for our markets," said Lim Huan Sein, head of AVA’s Marine Aquaculture Centre.

It is estimated that Singaporeans consume about 1,500 tonnes of seabass each month.

Last year, 76,052 tonnes of fresh fish, mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, came through AVA's Jurong Fishery Port and Senoko Fishery Port.

AVA expected to harvest between 50 and 100 tonnes of the fish through this pilot project, and it also hoped to work with other fish farms on similar projects.

Its partner Marine Harvest said this is the first time it is supplying directly to the Singapore market.

"The idea is basically that we will focus on the production cost as opposed to selling it at a very high price. The idea is to make it reasonable," said Eric Tan, managing director of Marine Harvest.

Marine Harvest added that it is planning to collaborate with the AVA on the farming of other tropical fish species such as red snapper and golden pomfret. - CNA/ac

Straits Times 9 Oct 9 07
Can super sea bass pass the taste test?

Singapore-bred sea bass are hardier and grow faster than their wild counterparts. The super fish, which were fattened in the waters off Indonesia's Riau Islands, have made their way to plates here. But just how do they taste? Tania Tan finds out

Skin crisp but flesh loose

Food critic Violet Oon steams the fish Cantonese style

# First impressions: 'The fish skin is beautiful and crisp - a sign of its freshness.

Re-thawed fish may have a dull hue. The eyes were also pure and had no bloody discolorations.

Fresh fish bought here can sometimes have bloodshot eyes - a sign it was harvested from the ocean with bombing.

The flesh was pure white and the stomach was clean without any residual body waste.'

# Recipe: Steamed with tomatoes and ginger, sliced shallots, garlic, chillies and kiam chye (salted vegetable) without any addition of sauces, so there is no way to mask a fish's quality, or lack thereof.

'It's the most stringent test for fish.'

# On the plate: 'There was no fishy smell or muddy taste - a common problem with fish bought here, which are mostly imported from Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The flesh was a little loose - the result of its fast growth rate. The fish did not have the chance to build up muscle. This could be a problem for gourmet chefs who will insist on the right texture in their fish, meats and vegetables.'

# Verdict: 'Nowadays, having food which is yummy is not as important to me as having food which is safe. Having fish that is bred naturally, and of good quality, puts my mind at ease.

# RATING: 4/5

'Safety is paramount, so the quality of the fish is very important to me.'

Flesh moist and tender

Lawyer-turned-gourmet Willin Low, head chef and owner of the Wild Rocket restaurant, chose to grill his whole fish

# First impressions: 'The fish comes fresh off the boat from the farm just a few hours away, which is a big plus for the restaurant business. Frozen fish just doesn't taste the same.'

# Recipe: The sea bass was filleted, seasoned with salt and pepper, and pan-fried. The steaks were accompanied with a cream-based sauce infused with garlic, chilli padi and cherry tomatoes.

# On the plate: 'The flesh was moist and tender. Sea bass bought locally can be quite dry because of the quality of the meat - which often depends on how the fish are reared, including water quality and what they are fed.

The fish tastes like those from Chile, which have smooth, succulent flesh but tend to be expensive.'

# Verdict: 'I have always believed you should cook what is available nearby, so you ensure freshness. I would definitely consider using good quality fish like this at the restaurant.'

# RATING: 3.5/5

The fish lost out on a perfect score because the flesh lacked firmness, explained Mr Low.

Straits Times 9 Oct 07
Fingerlings to finger-licking good
Tania Tan

IN A bid to boost Singapore's fish stocks, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) Marine Aquaculture Centre has successfully developed a hardy breed of sea bass - a favourite with local seafood lovers.

The fish, the result of a three-year selective breeding programme, grow faster and are more resilient than their wild counterparts.

They have a survival rate of up to 80 per cent, compared to 50 per cent in the wild. They also grow about 15 per cent faster, reaching market size of about 500g in less than six months.

The first batch of fish arrived back in Singapore last Thursday, after about a year in a Riau fishing farm, said the AVA.

The fish are fed with high quality feed, with a precise feeding regime and at specific times - a critical component of ensuring high survival rates.

Another simple, yet effective way to get good quality fish ready for the market: clean, spacious underwater cages.

The taste and texture of fish is not an inherited trait that can be developed by selective breeding, said the AVA.

Instead, it is dependent on feed quality and formula, prevailing water conditions at the farm, and post-harvest handling.

The project has been successful so far.

The first half tonne of sea bass was snapped up here, even before it was netted from the ocean.

The AVA will next try to replicate its sea-bass success with other popular fish species, including red snapper, golden pomfret and cobia.

Straits Times 12 Oct 07
Are farmed sea bass safe to consume?
Letter from Edmund Lim Wee Kiat

I APPRECIATE efforts by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to provide Singapore with a sustainable and affordable supply of fish ('S'pore's very own super sea bass'; ST, Oct 5). However, I am concerned about the dangers of breeding and consuming farmed fish.

Farmed fish are often bred in crammed and polluted cages where there is inadequate oxygen. These suffering fish are prone to additional stress, infections and sickness due to overcrowding. There were outbreaks of infectious salmon anaemia in Scottish fish farms in 1999 and in American fish farms in 2000. More than three million fish were destroyed.

To counter infections, diseases and premature death, farmed fish are fed antibiotics and vaccines that remain in their flesh, even when killed and cooked.

Farmed fish are fed with fishmeal made from industrial-catch fish. The feed may contain cancer-causing substances and pollutants. Fishmeal has been known to be tainted with chemicals. In 2002, the Veterinary Medicines Director of England found pesticide DDT and other toxic chemicals in various samples of farmed fish and prawn.

Farmed fish have a much higher level of unhealthy fat than wild fish. Where does this fat, along with the toxins, go when the fish is eaten?

Fish and shrimp farms damage the environment. These concentrated camps produce a huge amount of waste, including uneaten feed, faeces and discharge. The waste affects the salinity of the surrounding water and land.

Thailand is the world's largest exporter of farmed shrimp. It has been reported that long stretches of coastal land south of Bangkok have been damaged.

A biologist who worked for three decades in the Canadian fisheries department stated that a large salmon farm generates as much liquid waste as a small city. Our farms will be breeding millions of fish annually. The damage may be substantial. All these affect our sea, environment and various living organisms.

Furthermore, sick farmed fish may escape from the cages and infect wild fish stock. The densely packed farms also attract destructive sea lice, which affect healthy wild fish.

I am wary of the negative effects of breeding and eating farmed fish. I urge the authorities and fish farmers to address these serious health and environmental issues. I also hope that supermarkets would label seafood so that consumers will be able to identify farmed seafood.

Straits Times Forum 16 Oct 07
Seafood caught in the wild may also be unsafe for consumption
Letter from Betty L Khoo-Kingsley (Ms)

ST READER Edmund Lim has written a very well researched letter, 'Are farmed sea bass safe to consume?' (ST, Oct 12), questioning the safety of farmed seafood and identifying the environmental toxins aquaculture releases into the environment.

I would like to add to these genuine concerns - seafood caught in the wild is also unsafe. Shrimps are the vacuum cleaners of the sea but people should also realise that fish and other sea creatures eat tiny plastic particles floating in the ocean. Plastic debris and plastic particulars now weigh six times more than plankton (natural fish food) in the Pacific Ocean. Even worse, the extremely high concentration of toxic chemicals sticking to the plastics eaten by the animals goes into their fat cells. And poisoned sea animals are all over the world, due to the easy migration of chemicals through the air and water.

Sources: Jan Lundberg, former petroleum analyst and Paul Goettlich - author Alternatives to Plastic. www.mindfully.org

This is one of the reasons why all advocates of cancer-healing diets say that only eating a diet free of animal protein (sea creatures are also animals) is safe.

Straits Times Forum 17 Oct 07
AVA should make it compulsory for retailers to state source of fish
Letter from Chen Bin

I REFER to the letter by Mr Edmund Lim, 'Are farmed sea bass safe to consume?' (ST, Oct 12), concerning the safety of farmed fish.

The AVA has been doing an excellent job in ensuring food safety in Singapore. I am sure that extensive testing has been done for the specially bred sea bass. Moderate consumption of such fish should not impose an increased health risk.

Fish farming and consumption of farmed fish is already a reality. While fish stock in the oceans and rivers is depleting rapidly, demand is increasing. The only way to meet the demand and to keep fish prices affordable is through intensive farming.

Even though farmed fish is safe to consume, consumers should know the difference. Chefs have pointed out that farmed sea bass has a looser flesh.

Texture aside, the real difference of farmed fish can very well be the nutrition contents. We know that fish is a very good source of nutrients such as Omega-3 oil, minerals and vitamins. Nutrition contents in farmed fish and those growing in the wild can be considerably different. Thus, long-term consumption of farmed fish may cause nutrition imbalance if you have the impression that all fish will give you enough nutrients such as Omega-3.

Today, it is a real challenge for consumers to know the source of the fish they buy. If they buy it from supermarkets, they may see a label stating the country of origin. But they still can't tell if the fish is farm grown or caught from the wild. If they buy their fish from the wet market, every fishmonger will say that his salmon is from Norway, though it may just be from an industrialised fish farm off the coast of Canada.

Consumers do understand that wildly grown food, be it fish or fruits, are more nutritious and are more prized. A good example is ginseng. Wildly grown ginseng can be a lot more expensive than farmed ones. People pay for it because the properties can be vastly different.

I would like to suggest that AVA mandates retailers to clearly state the source of the fish on sale - not just the country but also how it is obtained, farmed or caught from the wild. This will certainly help consumers to make better informed buying decisions.

Straits Times Forum 17 Oct 07
Safe to eat fish, farmed or wild caught
Reply from Goh Shih Yong Assistant Director Corporate Communications for Chief Executive Officer Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority Ministry of National Development

I REFER to the letter, 'Are farmed sea bass safe to consume?' (ST, Oct 12), by Mr Edmund Lim Wee Kiat and would like to allay his fears about the safety of farmed fish.

As catches of wild fish are declining, the world is turning to aquaculture, or fish farming, as a sustainable source of food fish. As long as good farming practices are adopted, farmed fish would be safe for consumption.

We would like to assure the public that the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) has in place a stringent food-safety programme to ensure that food in Singapore is safe for consumption. Samples of fish, of both the wild and farmed varieties, are taken for laboratory examination routinely to detect harmful microbial hazards, environmental contaminants and residues, including antibiotics.

Just like in livestock production, disease outbreaks can occur in fish farming. However, the use of drugs such as antibiotics to control such diseases can be minimised if farmers observe good farming practices.

If the use of drugs is necessary, farmers are required to adhere to withdrawal periods to ensure that the fish is free of residues when ready for the market.

In addition, AVA regularly monitors the water in the local coastal fish-farming areas to ensure that it remains clean and suitable for aqua-culture. Our monitoring results show that fish farming in Singapore waters does not have any negative impact on the environment.

Once again, we would like to assure the public that fish available in Singapore, whether farmed or wild caught, is safe for consumption.


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