Singapore anglers calling for more fishing spots

PUB rules too restrictive, they say, even as others want the water agency to rein in illegal fishing

Some anglers are calling for more areas, especially at reservoirs, to be opened up for fishing, even as others urge the authorities to come down harder on those who fish illegally.

Biomedical technician Mohamed Ismail, 31, who has been fishing once a month for the past three years, said: "It'll be better if they can open up more places for us. It gets super crowded because of limited areas."

National water agency PUB has strict rules on fishing at reservoirs, and the drains and canals under its authority.

Fishing is restricted to designated areas at 10 - including Bedok Reservoir and Jurong Lake - out of the 17 reservoirs.

These spots are safe for anglers because they have no steep slopes. Fishing activities there also do not pose a risk to the public, including those taking part in water activities such as kayaking.

Fishing with live bait is not allowed because of pollution. Nets are also banned for safety reasons.

The PUB advises anglers to release the fish they catch to ensure that the fish population in reservoirs is not depleted. As for drains and canals, fishing is not allowed for safety reasons.

Polytechnic student Tan Zhi Cheng believes the PUB, which regularly sends officers to enforce the rules, should not be too strict about ensuring people fish within the allowed areas at reservoirs.

"Sometimes, the illegal spots are just a few metres away from the designated areas so it doesn't really make a difference in terms of safety or affecting other activities," said the 25-year-old, who has been fishing every weekend for the last two years.

"Rather, there should be more enforcement on people using live bait because that contaminates the reservoir, or those who don't release the fish they catch."

Those who continue to fish at canals, however, do not see any harm.

A 20-year-old student, who gave his name as Alistair, said: "I almost got fined before, but I'll still do it because there are more fish here. This is a hobby, we're not destroying the ecosystem, because we put the fishes back."

He has been fishing about twice a week since 2011.

About 250 people were caught fishing illegally each year between 2010 and last year. First-time offenders are fined $50.

Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society (Singapore), said that creating more fishing areas has to be done in a "controlled" way.

"There needs to be more education and awareness on how to be mindful of nature and the safety of people around them," he said.

"You don't want to be too harsh... but at the same time, you can't open up indiscriminately."

Meanwhile, environmental consultant Mallika Naguran feels that the focus of enforcement should be on the mode of fishing, including the use of drift nets, because it traps other wildlife.

"Fishing is a recreational activity that draws the community together," she said. "As long as they are not a nuisance to others and don't pollute the environment, I think people should be allowed to fish wherever they like."

Not everyone agrees.

Mr Lee Swee Mun, 38, a marketing executive, recently wrote in to The Straits Times Forum Page to complain about what he thought was a lack of enforcement on illegal fishing.

"Every day, one spots people fishing in our reservoirs and canals despite the presence of 'no fishing' signs. Besides using fishing rods, these poachers use long drift nets and fish traps," he wrote.

"It is frustrating when you see people polluting our reserves and indiscriminately fishing," he told The Sunday Times last month.

The PUB said its officers carry out daily surveillance at the reservoirs to look out for illegal fishing.

Its spokesman added that the public can call the PUB hotline on 1800-284-6600 if they spot illegal fishing activities.

limyihan@sph.com.sg