PUB calls for better fishing habits

It is working with angling groups to stop pollution, depletion of fish stock
David Ee Straits Times 2 Mar 13;

SOME of them pollute reservoirs with discarded bait. Others take their catch home, depleting fish stocks. They often leave trash behind too.

Even as national water agency PUB continues to open up more designated spots at reservoirs for fishing, now permitted at 10 reservoirs after the inclusion of Marina Reservoir last December, it is concerned about anglers not fishing responsibly.

It is reaching out to angling groups, asking them to set an example, aware that demand for more reservoir fishing spots remains unabated.

With PUB's support, the conservation group Gamefish and Aquatic Rehabilitation Society (Gars) has been conducting monthly responsible fishing clinics at Lower Seletar Reservoir since January.

The weekend sessions run till June.

They encourage good practices such as using artificial lures instead of polluting bait such as chicken liver or worms, practising catch and release, and cleaning up their fishing spots after use.

Online angling forum Fishing Kaki has also helped to get the word out through its posts on the clinics.

The PUB said in a statement that it would "continue to work with angling groups to encourage anglers to practise ... responsible fishing habits".

"There are always rotten apples," said Gars committee member Chia Lee Wee.

He estimated that up to 40 per cent of Singapore's 300,000 or so anglers don't follow PUB's rules and guidelines.

"We understand where PUB is coming from," he said. "If we don't educate, (reservoirs) will become like the Singapore River of old... a sewer."

Currently, PUB prohibits the use of live bait and rules dictate that anglers dispose of trash properly.

But enforcement is difficult despite regular PUB patrols, said Mr Chia, given the size of reservoirs and the sheer number of anglers.

"We're helping as PUB's 'neighbourhood watch'," he added, but admitted that it "would take decades to change attitudes".

Owner of Fishing Kaki Luke Gino Cunico said: "Many anglers have been fishing like that for years. It's been ingrained into them."

He called for more educational efforts by PUB and fishing groups. On his part, Mr Cunico intends to begin posting public service announcements on his forum soon, encouraging members to fish responsibly.

Opening up more fishing spots, which anglers continue to call for, would only aggravate the problem of overfishing and pollution if anglers don't change their mindsets, he said.

"Education must start with the kids," said Mr Chia.

Gars' clinic last month attracted only about 20 anglers. It hopes more will start taking part, beginning with its next clinic on March 15.

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