Hook, line and release? Young enthusiasts want to teach anglers how to fish sustainably

SINGAPORE – The fish dangling on the line gleamed with a healthy sheen of pink – the promise of a star catch – but upon closer inspection, revealed itself to be a juvenile, and was quickly released back into the ocean. 

This is common practice among regular fishing enthusiasts, but those newer to the hobby may not know how to do this. 

To raise awareness and ensure that enough fish remain in Singaporean waters for future generations, conservation non-profit organisation Marine Stewards introduced sustainable fishing guidelines in 2020. 

The guidelines include releasing juvenile fish and not returning invasive fish species, such as hybrid groupers, back into the water to protect native marine fauna. 

These guidelines were formulated following an uptick in fishing activities during the pandemic, when travel restrictions saw a rise in amateur fishermen joining the scene. 

To propagate these measures to more new to fishing, Marine Stewards has launched FishX, a series of paid workshops to share tips on how to fish more sustainably. 

These workshops will be run by a group of passionate youth volunteers who will teach participants not only how to fish, but also sustainable fishing etiquette like releasing caught juveniles. 

They are easy to spot at Singapore’s popular fishing spots, with bright blue camo tops bearing the words “Ocean lovers are ocean protectors”. 


One of the problems faced by beginners is not being able to identify rare fishes. In July 202, this led to the capture and death of a honeycomb whipray, a vulnerable stingray species, off Bedok Jetty. 

Mr Ryan Chin, a 17-year-old student at ACSI and head of Marine Stewards’ FishX programme, said: “Singapore is blessed with over 500 species of marine fishes, yet most of us don’t know they exist. When beginners lack awareness of venomous, rare or sensitive species, it may pose a threat to both them and the fish.”

FishX participants will be taught how to identify fishes by the guides referencing Nparks’ biodiversity and environment database, which maps biodiversity throughout Singapore. 

Selected rare specimens caught will be donated to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum for marine biology research.

Participants will also be educated on how to use fishing gear that upholds better sustainable fishing standards. This will be demonstrated by members of the online fishing shop SG Fishing Rigz, a startup run by four youths specialising in sustainable fishing equipment.

Circle hooks, for instance, allow for higher rates of survival of fish for release compared with the commonly used J-hooks that can sometimes puncture the guts of fish and fatally wound them. 

This wrasse, caught with a J-hook, is fortunate to emerge relatively unscathed.


Mr Benjamin Brighton, 16-year-old student from UWCSea and one of the co-founders of SG Fishing Rigz, said: “When my group returned to angling after two months of the circuit breaker and no fishing permitted, the waters off Bedok Jetty were teeming with fish. On our first day back, we were able to catch about 50 fish.” 

A video he put together of the different fish being reeled in is nearly an hour long.

Fishing At Bedok Jetty!!! [Best Day Ever] [Crazy Queenfish]

“This made us realise that a healthy, diverse fish population can easily be maintained as long as there’s no overfishing in Singapore,” said the student, who co-founded the fishing shop with fishing buddies he met at the jetty. 

The fishing shop, SgFishingRigz, will provide the equipment used during the workshops. Members of the shop will also be assisting in the FishX program as volunteer guides. 

Mr Alex Teo, a 53-year-old construction supervisor who has been fishing for over 20 years, said: “There have been a lot of bad practices in the past of people overfishing and leaving fish out to waste, so it really warms my heart that these young people are trying to protect the animals in our ocean.”

“After all, these little lives are lives as well,” he said. 

The workshops will be held at Bedok Jetty starting Dec 1. To participate, readers can sign up for a slot on the Marine Stewards website. It costs $68 per participant.