KELANTAN: The heatwave in Malaysia is causing fish to die, causing financial loss for nearly 100 grouper and barramundi farmers with net pens in Laguno Tujoh, Kelantan.
“We have been camping out to keep an eye on the fish after they started dying. Nearly 80 per cent of the fish are still small and sensitive to change,” said one of the farmers, 33-year-old Zailani Ariffin, on Tuesday (Mar 5).
Zailani said that the heat, as well as the falling water levels in the lagoon, are affecting oxygen supply in the water, thus causing the fish to lose their scales and die.
He said many farmers have started using huge engines and blowers to bring the situation under control.
"We are doing all kinds of things to save the fish because it has cost us a lot to buy the fry - at almost RM1.50 (S$0.50) a fish – and fish food," he said.
Laguna Sri Tujoh Fish Farmers’ Association chairman, Saifullah Che Mat, said about 50 metric tonnes of fish die in the lagoon every year, with estimated losses of RM750,000.
He said the heat is influencing the water level and increasing salinity, which is impacting the fish because they are not getting adequate oxygen.
“The lagoon is getting shallower every year and making things worse, not to mention the yearly loss,” he said.
According to him, a few farmers have decided to cut their losses and sell their net pens because they could not deal with it anymore.
Saifullah, a barramundi farmer, said the Fisheries Research Institute (FRI) in Batu Maung, Penang, has roughly calculated that the 46ha Laguna Tujoh can produce 300 metric tonnes of net pen fish per year.
However, they are falling short of this target because of the constraints.
He said the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry has approved an allocation of RM29 million to deepen the lagoon mouth.
"The project was to begin this month. We hope the government will expedite works so that we don’t continue operating at a loss," he said.
Malaysia is currently at the tail end of the North-East Monsoon. Very little rainfall is expected in this period, with temperatures set to soar to 38 degrees Celsius at the end of March or beginning of April, according to the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia).
Authorities in Kelantan have advised the public to avoid open burning during this hot and dry period, so as to prevent the fire from getting out of control and causing air pollution.