koiture: koi in koi pond at the innovation centre (Default)
I haven't written much on this blog for a while

Let's say that my thoughts on biosecurity has been refined over and over the past few months. Having gone through a conference in Europe and thinking about it, i think that I can articulate the tension between the government and farmers a little more clearly.

According to Mather and Marshall, one of the tensions that exist between the government body and farmers is due to the habits of farmers in managing disease - the conceptualization of disease is that farming practices that works with the seasons and animal body can minimize disease - that is, by being on the watch for disease symptoms during stressful months when ostriches are kept in higher densities, and undertaking action such as isolating them and feeding them more so they can recover. However, the concept of virulent avian flu comes from without the country. In addition to other external factors (such as ostriches switching from being farmed for purely ornamental products to being farmed for meat), handling of the disease became governmental regulated.

So too in Koi - the tension appeared, and grew, when KHV became a looming factor. Furthermore, this occurred barely 3 years after both SARS and Avian flu pandemics - both pandemics of foreign zoonotic origin, being of a global and international concern. In managing the diseases for Singapore, it is not surprising that AVA and MOH had to work together to handle these zoonotic diseases - and then, when KHV came up, AVA would apply the same biosecurity to koi.

The tension arises when the koi farmers are at odds with the strong and stringent criteria invoked against koi import regulations - ornamental fish in general are no longer allowed to be considered 'healthy' if they, for some reason, had encountered or were in contact with water from koi fish. Koi had been isolated and set apart from other ornamental fish.

It is almost like the koi industry had been quarantined from the rest of the ornamental industry.

And yet, judging from the trend and talking to ornamental fish farmers, ornamental fish itself is an industry that is dying - a "sunset industry" in singapore, also cut out and apart from the aquaculture and agricultural industry itself.

Maybe the mindset of biosecurity was just the beginning.
koiture: koi in koi pond at the innovation centre (Default)
Who cares about ornamental aquaculture in Singapore?

There is so many aspects to this! Why is koi aquaculture in Singapore important? Why should we care?

Let's go from the beginning. Most historical and literature about aquaculture, especially ornamental aquaculture, comes from British history. British and European scientists got to dominate the scientific discourse of aquatic animals, they developed the aquarium, etcetera etcetera. The home aquarium craze seems to have started from Britian at the turn of the Industrial Era.

But that doesn't mean that no one else in the world did anything about ornamental fish! For the British to populate their tanks, they had to get 'exotic' species that weren't their common river minnows because they weren't interested in what they could easily see everyday, right? They wanted the exotic, the strange, the colourful.

Tropical fish tended to be exotic and very colourful, and that's what other countries supplied.

The thing about ornamental fish is that weight for weight, ornamental fish were far more expensive and profitable than food fish. Food fish were bought and sold by the unit mass. Ornamental fish were sold by the individual. Granted a lot of it was because ornamental fish were transported over long distances, and the attrition due to the fish just plain dying while being shipped over meant that the remaining ones had cumulative value, but even if ALL the fish were to arrive safely, people were paying something like a few pence for a single tiny tropical fish not longer than 3 centimeters, while for food fish they were paying pennies per hundred grams, maybe.

For Singapore, a country recently given independence, ornamental fish trade was a way to survive. Food farming was really for subsistence level, not really for export. But ornamental fish farming, such as for guppies, which took up much less space, and could sell for a few hundred times per unit mass compared to food fish, they were hugely profitable.

The early ornamental fish industry in Singapore was then profitable, and all about survival for a tiny new independent country.

Now we talk about koi. The koi carp has yet more strange necessasities tied into it, and as an ornamental fish is and was different from other ornamental fish like guppies and swordtails and mollies.

For one, to keep koi, one required land and deep pockets to set up the appropriate pond and habitat. Two, koi were from a temperate country with obvious and strong seasons - Singapore is tropical, and warm all year round. Three, koi has to be shipped and transported to Singapore.

So of course the practices of keeping koi will be different from two different countries - Japanese practices versus SIngaporean practices. But then what affects the ornamental fish industry as a whole, will affect koi keeping - regulations in keeping fish in Singapore, regulations in importing and exporting of fish, all of these affect the koi. While the trend of koi keeping in Singapore is fading for various reasons, there are bigger, larger answers as to why the ornamental fish industry is also declining in general.

So what are the research questions here?

My big fancy question here is about the generation of knowledge of involved in ornamental aquaculture in Singapore.

But that's huge and vague.

So what I will do is break it down.

I'm interested in how do people know what they know about keeping koi. How did they find out who or where to look for this information? WHo are the people involved in this?

The easy answer when looking at the question about "who knows things" is to look for the scientists. Scientists are supposed to know things right?

So there are the scientists in universities and academia. But there are also scientists in the regulatory governmental body that regulates and oversees the ornamental fish industry. These people within the regulatory body , in Singapore, would be working for the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority.

Then there are also the farmers who import and export the fish, they have to know how to take care of the fish right? then there are the hobbyists, those who keep the fish because they like to, and want to, and they have to know how to rear, breed, cultivate, these fish because otherwise they will die and then they will have no pets.

So a question here is, how do these groups of people interact? how do these groups of people transmit their knowledge to each other, how do they influence each others' practices - or how they DO - of aquaculture? How did this change over time? What were the factors that allowed ornamental aquaculture to become socially important? How technology influence aquacultural practises - or is it the other way round, or is it a thing where both influence each other mutally or to different degrees?

That's what I have so far, and I hope it sounds interesting for people to keep reading on as I try to update and formulate my thoughts and data. :)


koiture: koi in koi pond at the innovation centre (Default)

About this Blog

So this is a blog about my research into the history of koi aquaculture.

Singapore's aquaculture industry had always been about survival, and I would love to say that the ornamental fish industry had actually helped Singapore survive.

This blog will attempt to talk about how the industry helped Singapore, and then the various factors that influenced its decline, using koi rearing in Singapore as a case-study of the ornamental fish industry as a whole.

October 2016

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