Marine life has been in the spotlight recently. Last weekend, a video showing a white-spotted eagle ray being dragged onto the beach at East Coast Park by an angler went viral. The animal is a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. This means it is at risk of extinction. Social media users have posted images of fan shells, stripped of abductor muscles, dumped on beaches to rot. Not only are the shellfish poachers harming marine life, but they are also trashing public beaches and making it unpleasant for other users. Drift nets are banned in Singapore's port waters, but some have been found recently with trapped by-catch including endangered animals such as a hawksbill turtle and red egg crabs. The nets also damage and kill coral.
Singapore has tightened fishing regulations over the years, with anglers restricted to designated areas. The Bedok Jetty, near where the eagle ray was caught, has a signboard put up by the National Parks Board with advice on which species, including the eagle ray, should be released back into the wild. Evidently, signboards are insufficient. Public education needs to be ramped up, especially now that there are more recreation seekers who might be less informed than experienced anglers about fishing practices and policies. Unsustainable practices by subsistence fishermen, such as using drift nets and foraging indiscriminately for shellfish, might require more stringent enforcement, or even punishment. The Wild Animals and Birds Act was updated last year to include harsher penalties such as fines of up to $50,000 and jail for up to two years for those who kill, trap, take or keep wildlife without approval. It might be time to start baring some legal teeth to protect Singapore's vulnerable wildlife if the current soft approach is not working.