Challenges Faced by a Marine Finfish Farming Business

Ms. Laura Khor Li Imm, Quality Control Manager – KS Aquaculture Sdn Bhd, Malaysia

KS Aquaculture began as a single grow-out farm in Pulau Ketam, Malaysia during the late 1970s and was later established as a company in 1997 after expanding to several farms in Selangor and Johor. The company focuses on multispecies culture consisting mainly of red snapper, grouper and pompano. This overview highlights the challenges faced by the fish farmers in keeping up with environmental and market changes.

In recent years, the survival and growth rate of grow-out stock have dropped significantly compared to the initial farming years. Other challenges include restrictions on workers, land and seawater usage taxes, as well as the shrinking supplier and buyer pool due to stricter documentation requirements for incoming and outgoing fish. Amidst these problems, farmers are not able to raise current fish prices in tandem with the rising costs of feed and fry, due to more competitive prices of wild catch.

Farmers have also observed higher disease occurrences associated with poor nutritional health, parasites, secondary bacterial infections and viruses carried by infected fry. Additionally, they need to cope with environmental stress from high fluctuations in water conditions due to climate change, especially during the onset of monsoons and other natural phenomena.

To manage disease, farmers regularly provide chemical bath treatments for infected or poor-quality stock. Feeds are occasionally added with anti-parasitic medication and other supplements in the event of adverse environmental conditions. Formulated feeds and fish are also tested at intervals to check for controlled substances in accordance with requirements of local farm certification schemes.

The transformation of traditional culture practices towards more sustainable methods is inevitable in the face of changing demands and environment. One way to do this would be for the academic and government institutions to collaborate with farmers and find ways to work within and around the confines of current farming practices. In doing so, practicality and cost effectiveness should always be a consideration in moving the industry forward to keep up with fluctuating resources and market requirements.