and curry fish-head, are among the most popular fish dishes in Singapore.
The major ingredient for the expensive shark's fin soup is the severed pectoral
and dorsal fins of sharks and guitarfishes. Fish are sold live, frozen or
processed in various ways, e.g., dried and salted, pickled in brine, deep-fried
or canned. The more popular food fishes include sea bass (barramundi), groupers,
pomfrets, snappers, threadfins, scads and rabbbitfishes. Many of those found
locally are illustrated in this book.
in many parts of the world, fish forms a large part of many Singaporeans'
diet. In Singapore, there are two large fishing ports where almost
every morning, trawlers bring in fish caught mainly in the South China
Sea and Andaman Sea, to be distributed to wet markets and restaurants.
Apart from trawlers, food fish are also supplied by kelongs and fish
photo: Robert Kerle
A net lining the corral
is lifted up during the night and the trapped fishes are scooped up. The
catch is then sorted according to size and edibility. Apart from anchovies,
most of the small ones end up being sold to fish farms as food for groupers,
sea basses and snappers.
the coast, especially in the north-eastern area around Pulau Tekong
and Pulau Ubin, one may see small houses built on wooden stakes driven
into the seafloor.These are actually fish traps known locally as kelongs.
The stakes are positioned such that fish are attracted into a corral
with an overhanging light.
in the Johor Straits
photo Kelvin Lim
the Johor Straits, there are fish farms consisting of floating net
cages where commercially important fish are reared from fingerlings
to marketable sizes. Most of these fingerlings are imported from around
the Southeast Asian region (e.g., Indonesia and the Philippines).
Floating fish farm off Changi
photo: Cynthia Lee
Polkadot Grouper (Cromileptes altevelis) grows to 70 cm and
is often reared in floating net cages. It has a distinct small head
and brown spots all over its body.
Groupers (e.g., Epinephelus spp., Cromileptes
altivelis), snappers (Lutjanus spp.), threadfin
(Eleutheronema tetradactylum), and milkfish
(Chanos chanos) are among the more popular species reared.
Many of these fish are supplied live to restaurants both locally and
Mention must also be
made of commercial fishing ponds which charge admission prices for recreation
anglers. These ponds are usually stocked with fishes of food value, for
instance, groupers, seabass and snappers.
Singapore, there are still a few traditional fishermen who operate
from little wooden vessels (sampans) and use gill-nets, traps (bu-bus)
and lines to obtain their catch.
However, most forms of line fishing practised today along our coastlines
are of the recreational type. Bedok jetty along the East Coast Parkway
is one of the most popular spots for recreational fishing. The more
enthusiastic anglers rent boats to fish in the open sea.
Many of the fishes pictured in this book have been kindly contributed
by such individuals. The edible fishes caught often end up as dinner,
but some anglers are carefully releasing their catches back to the
sea to prevent unnecessary killing.
fisherman on his sampan in the Johor Straits
photo: N Sivasothi
Fisherman and cobla
photo: Serene L M Teo
colourful fishes found on reefs support the growing scuba-diving industry,
which prove lucrative for the eco-tourist trade in many insular tropical
countries. Due to poor water visibility all year round, Singapore's
reefs are not popular diving spots, but more and more Singaporeans
are taking up diving as a form of recreation. They often head out
to Malaysia and Indonesia where the waters are clear and where the
fishes are perceived to be more bountiful and beautiful.
Angelfish in the Singapore Straits
Singapore is a major exporter of ornamental fish. Although there is intensive
breeding of freshwater species here, the marine ones are largely imported
from neighbouring areas like Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines. The
marine aquarium hobby is popular in Singapore and marine aquariums are also
used to decorate shopping centres and offices. As very few marine fishes
have been bred in captivity, most are harvested from the wild, sometimes
with the use of harmful chemicals like cyanide. As a consequence, only a
very small portion of the catches make it alive to the hobbyists' tanks.
This practice has caused much concern with conservation groups.
Some fishes are also used for traditional medicine. The most important of
these are members of the families Syngnathidae and
Pegasidae, i.e., the seahorses, seamoths and pipefishes. These fishes, harvested
from the wild, are dried and sold in Chinese medicine shops, Brewed into
soup, they are said to help cure skin disorders. Some conservation groups
have protested against uncontrolled harvesting of seahorses in the region.
Quality leather can be obtained from the granular skin on the back of dasyatid
stingrays. Many large stingrays brought into the fish
markets have that part of their skin neatly trimmed out. These are then
treated and tanned to be made into belts and handbags. Although not often
seen in Singapore, the curio trade, a result of the tourist industry, does
use the occasional fish for making ornaments. Pufferfishes
and porcupinefishes are often the victims. These are sun-dried whilst in
their inflated form and later painted and varnished to be made into lanterns.
Coastal Marine Habitats
Fishes and Man
About the guidebook