Hooked: More illegal fishermen

Hooked: More illegal fishermen

MORE people have gone fishing in forbidden waters, going by the jump in violations in recent years.

Fishing violations have doubled in the last two years, national water agency PUB told The Straits Times. A yearly average of 500 summonses were issued last year and in 2013, double the 250 yearly average in 2011 and 2012, said PUB.

Fishing at reservoirs here is allowed at only 10 locations, including Marina, Lower Peirce, Upper Seletar and Kranji. Anglers are not allowed to fish outside designated areas in these reservoirs.

The PUB figures also include cases where anglers break the rule allowing only the use of artificial bait, meaning no worms for example, to prevent water pollution.

PUB attributed the rise in illegal fishing cases to stepped-up enforcement. At Marina Reservoir, one of the illegal fishing hot spots, patrols have grown more frequent since two years ago.

PUB said another reason was the growing popularity of fishing.

Indeed, Mr Luke Gino Cunico, owner of the Fishing Kaki online forum, noted that the forum now has about 400,000 registered members - three times more than three years ago. It has 2.6 million page views monthly.

In turn, anglers said they fish in forbidden waters as it is harder to reel in a fish at the legal spots.

An angler, who wanted to be known just as Zul, said it takes him about 11/2 hours to catch a fish in legal waters, compared with half an hour elsewhere. Some nights, he goes home empty-handed after staking out the legally sanctioned fishing spots.

The 33-year-old hotel service worker said: "It is harder to catch a fish at the legal areas as the fishing pressure is higher and there are fewer fish there."

Angler Isaiah Manivannan, 32, said the thrill of netting "trophy fish", such as snakehead and peacock bass, draws anglers to illegal spots.

"Places such as the waterfront area near Marina Bay Sands and Marina Barrage are popular places to catch them (peacock bass) as they like to dwell in areas with structures and deep waters," he added.

Some called for a licensing scheme or for more fishing areas.

Mr Cunico, for instance, suggested a recreational fishing licence such as that in Australia, where anglers pay a yearly fee and limits are set on the number of fish they can catch.

Founder and chairman of Waterways Watch Society Eugene Heng said a licensing scheme can help ensure accountability. "You can't prevent anglers from fishing at illegal areas, but if you provide some training on responsible fishing practices and issue them with licence cards, they won't be able to say that they don't know that this is illegal," he said.

In response, PUB said it is studying the feasibility of a licensing scheme. It said that it is aware of the growing interest in fishing and intends to "open up more areas where possible" but this has to be reviewed, taking in considerations such as safety.

PUB director of catchment and waterways Ridzuan Ismail said while it has opened up reservoirs for activities like water sports and fishing, they serve "first and foremost" as storage for raw water.

Those caught violating fishing rules will be fined $50 for the first offence and $200 for the second offence. Offenders will be prosecuted for subsequent offences and may be fined up to $3,000.

Calling for good fishing habits, Mr Ridzuan said: "If we are able to push for responsible fishing, then we need not rely so much on enforcement."


This article was first published on April 21, 2015.
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