TAIPING: Preliminary laboratory reports of water samples taken from the river at Kuala Sepetang, the largest cockle breeding ground in Malaysia, has shown a high amount of ammonia.
While not conclusive, Perak Fisheries Department director Dr Bah Piyan Tan said it was one possible factor that was causing the cockles to die.
“Ammonia is toxic. Cockles can’t be bred in water with high amount of ammonia.
“The ammonia level should be less than 0.25 parts per million (ppm) for aquaculture activities,” he told reporters during a site visit to the cockle breeding area in Kuala Sepetang by state executive council member Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon yesterday.
“We are still waiting for a thorough report so we can plan for restoration or restocking of the cockles,” he said, adding that the samples were taken about two weeks ago.
“Other factors could be due to parasites or virus or other factor relating to climate change,” he added.
It was reported last month that cockles that were bred for consumption in Kuala Sepetang are dying.
According to the Kuala Sepetang Cockle Farmers Association, there has been a drop of about 90% of its cockle yield and it was getting lesser by the year.
Kuala Sepetang supplies the shellfish throughout Malaysia and Singapore.
Dr Bah Piyan said the department would try to expedite the overall report from the tests to carry out further action.
“When we have the results, we can then advise the cockle farmers on what to do.
“This issue not only affects farmers in Kuala Sepetang but also at coastal areas along the Straits of Malacca near Penang, Johor, Perlis, Malacca and Selangor,” he said.
Dr Bah Piyan said the department would continue to closely monitor the situation.
Dr Mah said the harvesting of cockles had been gradually declining since 2005.
“According to farmers here, they used to harvest some 28,000 tonnes of cockles.
“Last year, it dropped to 13,000 tonnes. As of June, only 3,900 tonnes have been harvested,” he said, adding that about 7,000 tonnes are expected to be harvested this year.
Dr Mah said the state and all related parties would need to wait for a concrete report from the Fisheries Research Institute before planning for further actions.
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