Updated: Feb 23, 2021
By Marla Lise
Many of us in Singapore grew up behind books, closed doors, computers and classrooms. The outdoor world existed in urban playgrounds, school fields and Olympic-sized swimming pools. Weekends spent camping in the woods, surfing in the ocean and hiking through mountainsides were done only by other people, people who weren’t here. People who spent their days milking cows, feeding the chickens and fishing for subsistence were the ones on television.
Has anything changed now? Is the Singaporean lifestyle much different? Are those exotic people now less strange?
Everyone has their own views but one thing is certain, we are changing. Singaporeans are starting to pick up their backpacks, regulators, motorbike licenses and rods and travel, dive, roam and fish. The influx of foreigners, cultures and tourism has also given rise to the openness of the mind, the variety of experiences and the freedom to do what wasn’t done before. Activities that people used to do purely to survive, now are done as a form of entertainment.
Fishing is one of those activities. Many cultures all over the world have had to fish to survive, inventing specialized methods and equipment to aid them. We think about the famous one-legged fishermen in Myanmar, the stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka and the otter fishermen in Bangladesh. These are just some of the ingenious ways fishermen have been able to thrive to support themselves and their families.
Today, however, fishing has taken on a whole new level. Fishing boats trawl the oceans to provide the world with food. Fishing competitions boast massive amounts of prize money all over the world. Fishing gear is getting more and more technical and boats are getting more powerful. Catches are getting bigger and more species are being caught. What happened to the lowly fisherman and this humble way of providing for oneself and what should we think about it?
Well, for one, fishing needs to be categorized. It is easy to put all fishing practices into one basket and say they are all harm to the oceans. Looking at the topic subjectively though, we see that fishing, like most activities, is divided into many different divisions. Here in Singapore, fortunately, our fishing activities remain at the lowest rungs of this extreme fishing ladder. There are many places that have been opened up to the public to fish, both here on this island and in the surrounding waters. So, does that mean it’s good for the environment?
Fishermen will fish if they want to. Much like people will do extreme rock-climbing, cave-diving or horse-back riding if they want to. Zoos will exist the same as places like G. W. Zoo (‘Tiger King’) will exist. There will be places where you can swim with dolphins in small cages and other places where you can pet drugged tigers. This is the reality of the world we live in. What if we allow these things to happen, but instead of making people hide and do things illegally without any control, make sure that there are strict guidelines, restrictions and adequate enforcement to make sure that all necessary steps are taken to ensure the safety and sustainability of both people, animals and the environment.
Anglers in Singapore fish under strict guidelines from the National Parks Board, the Fisheries Act and the Public Utilities Board. Marine Stewards is an NGO that was founded and created by a group of anglers in Singapore to make sure that these guidelines are adhered to and to clarify and add some of their own. They have done studies with researchers and partnered with universities to make sure that species, catch-size of fish and their ages are clearly documented to show exactly what is and is not fishable. Because of the work that they do and the collaboration between the anglers, marine scientists, other NGOs, divers and sailors, we can make sure that fishing is done sustainably in our waters and hopefully in the ones neighbouring as well. If fishing is done responsibly, catch and release systems are in place and citizen science monitoring is carried out by the people on the water, we can be more aware of the numbers and types of marine organisms in our oceans and the health of our waters.
So, what should you think about fishing? Well, that’s up to you.
About Marine Stewards
Marine Stewards is a non-profit whose mission is to promote a healthy fishing culture through sustainable fishing guidelines, education and outreach.
Volunteer: We welcome all volunteers, email firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author:
Marla is an ocean lover with a passion for marine conservation