Tackle the problem of foreign fish in waterways

I'm flabbergasted that national water agency PUB has missed the wood for the trees in the recent incident where two boys were caught fishing (Youths fishing at Merlion Park: PUB says boys have been identified and will be counselled, Sept 8; and PUB not taking further action against 2 youths seen fishing illegally at Merlion Park, Sept 9).

The fish the boys caught appears to be a large cichla, which is also known as thepeacock bass. It is a predatory freshwater fish native to the Amazon and Orinoco basins in South America. If the species becomes established in Marina Bay, it can become invasive and damage our ecosystem, feeding on smaller native fish aggressively.

While many of the debates around the incident were about the legality of what the boys did, I have another point of view.

I think the two schoolboys should be thanked for alerting the public that a foreign predatory fish species exists in our waterways.

The PUB should ask how the fish landed there. Will the species affect our delicate ecosystem? What other foreign predatory fish that may have been abandoned by hobbyists live in our waters? Are there cichlas in other reservoirs or The Botanic Gardens?

If we are not careful, local freshwater fish like the tilapia, barb, guppy and catfish will soon join the list of endangered animals.

Michael Lum

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2018, with the headline 'Tackle the problem of foreign fish in waterways'. Print Edition | Subscribe