They have lost their fish, but not the spirit to keep going
He is 26, has a master's degree in business administration and could have easily found a high-paying office job.
But not wanting to be confined by the walls of an office, Mr Bryan Ang took the plunge into what some consider a sunset industry - running a kelong (fish farm).
Mr Ang, the creative and marketing manager of Ah Hua Kelong, told The New Paper: "I wanted to promote local produce and make Singapore more self-sustainable, so I thought, 'Why not? Let's give it a shot.'"
Ah Hua Kelong made headlines last week when it appealed for funds on crowdfunding website Indiegogo after 80 per cent of its fish were killed by a plankton bloom that hit the East Johor Straits waters.
Last Saturday, Mr Ang and Mr Wong Jing Kai, also 26, the kelong's business development manager, suddenly found themselves in deep trouble when 100 tonnes of fish at their kelong turned belly-up.
It was a day they would never forget.
Mr Ang said: "When I arrived at the kelong, all I saw was a sea of white.
"The dead fish were floating on the surface, I couldn't see the water at all."
Mr Wong called it one of the worst moments of his life.
"Imagine something you dedicated your life to went down the drain overnight, that's how I felt," he said.
But despite this being the second time in a year that Ah Hua Kelong's stock has been wiped out by a plankton bloom, Mr Ang has no plans to throw in the towel.
Mr Ang, who also runs a boat charter business, knows the sea is where he belongs.
He said: "I like to be out on the water, it makes me feel calm."
He was acquainted with the owner of Ah Hua Kelong, Mr Teh Tik Hua, five years ago through his business and saw the kelong's potential for growth.
Mr Ang said: "Instead of waiting for people to come to the kelong, I wanted to bring the kelong to people."
In 2013, he shared his intention with Mr Wong during their reservist training and the two friends decided to take the plunge in December that year.
Since joining the kelong, they have set up a Facebook page and launched a website for home deliveries.
Mr Teh, 60, credits the pair for modernising his operations.
He said: "When they approached me, I was surprised that two young and well-educated guys wanted to work for my kelong.
"But they've helped me to attract younger customers that I was missing out on."
He added that he is most impressed by how they always place the customer first.
"Once, they drove all the way from Jurong back to our kelong because they realised the delivery was 1kg short and didn't want to disappoint the customer.
"That's how responsible they are. The future of the kelong is safe in their hands."
But although business has taken off since they joined the kelong, it was not all smooth sailing.
Mr Wong, who gave up his digital marketing consultant job, said: "It was 10 times harder than my previous job.
"I had to be really hands-on and clean the nets, transport fish feed and even scrape barnacles."
Mr Wong also admitted to taking a pay cut, although he declined to reveal how much.
Apart from getting his hands dirty, he also had to sacrifice personal time.
When TNP sat with him in his delivery van, Mr Wong's phone rang incessantly, with buyers inquiring about their orders, barely giving our reporter a chance to interject.
He said: "At our busiest, I had to make more than 20 deliveries a day."
He is not spared even on public holidays.
On Thursday, when TNP visited the 0.5ha Ah Hua Kelong, a five-minute boat ride from Lorong Halus Jetty in Pasir Ris, the waters were especially still.
"If you had come last week, you could have seen see the fishes splashing around in the water," Mr Wong told TNP.
"It's very quiet now."
But things are already looking up for the kelong, with more than $12,000 raised on its crowdfunding page as of Friday.
Mr Ang, who came up with the idea to crowdfund, said: "I am very touched. It's not about how much people give, it's about the gesture."
Although it will take at least a year for Ah Hua Kelong to operate at full capacity again, Mr Ang has already laid out plans for the kelong's future.
"We intend to widen our customer base and maximise the use of each fish.
"We will also bring in more variety of fishes from overseas."
Such plans will help Mr Ang keep the business afloat.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority stopped issuing kelong licences in the 1960s as it was deemed not viable and sustainable.
In the last 35 years, the number of kelongs has dwindled from a peak of 45 to just 14.Mr Tam Kock Soon, 46, who runs Chia Soon Kelong, located off Pulau Tekong, told TNP: "It's getting harder and harder, compared to my grandfather.
"In the past, we could rely on selling fish to get by. Now, we have to tap on tourists, too."
Mr Ang and Mr Wong, however, are more optimistic.
Mr Ang said: "Every job is difficult. When we face a crisis like the plankton bloom, we just have to deal with it."
Every job is difficult. When we face a crisis like the plankton bloom, we just have to deal with it.
- Mr Bryan Ang on dealing with the fish deaths at Ah Hua Kelong