Ho Chi Minh City authorities have promised big fines for people caught fishing in Nhieu Loc - Thi Nghe and Tau Hu – Ben Nghe, two badly polluted canals that were cleaned up recently.
Tran Van Son of the city Department of Agriculture and Rural Development admitted that no one has been hauled up so far for fishing in the canal.
“We will coordinate with district police for surveillance and slapping fines on violators.”
Rapid urban development has turned the waters in many of the city’s canals black with sewage and filth, and several of them have been cleaned up in the past few years. The clean water has attracted fish again with local authorities augmenting the stock by releasing fish fry into it.
But illegal fishing in some of the canals has been making headlines without any action being taken by local authorities.
Last week Thanh Nien News saw many groups of people fishing in these canals, most of them with big catches.
Thinh, a man from Tan Binh District, was fishing with two rods in Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe and had a bucket full of tilapia and catfish he had caught.
“I often come here to fish. This section has many big fish. I always have fish for food after each trip. Sometimes if I catch too many, I sell them to passers-by for tens of thousands dong each,” he said.
Asked if he was not afraid of being fined for illegal fishing, he said no one has slapped a fine yet though signs saying fishing is banned have been put up along the canal.
“Everyone here just goes fishing any time they want.”
Nguyen Thi Nguyet, a resident who lives near the canal, said she was injured by a fishing hook a man was casting when she was walking along the canal.
“They are destroying fish in the canal and causing danger to pedestrians. It is strange the government spares them after spending a huge sum to renovate the canal and releasing fish fry in it.
“They should strictly enforce the ban instead of simply installing the fishing ban signs.”
Two men fish in the Nhieu Loc - Thi Nghe Canal in Ho Chi Minh City next to a sign saying fishing is banned. Photo: Bach Duong
The scene was the same in the Tau Hu – Ben Nghe Canal.
A man living near the canal in District 4 said the district authorities released more than a ton of fish in March to revive the canal and people just ignore the fishing ban.
“No one has been fined. It is unacceptable.”
But the fishing goes on unabated, with some even using electricity to electrocute the fish, a dangerous practice that will kill all the fish in the canals.
Vo Tri Hao, a lawyer and lecturer at the University of Economics in HCMC, said the city releases more than a million fry each year and the fish should be considered public property.
“Thus, the city is responsible for instructing relevant agencies to enforce the fishing ban and issuing regulations that stipulate strict fines against violators.”
Using electricity and nets at banned places can attract fines of up to VND15 million (US$695).
Nguyen Duc Chanh of the HCMC Bar Association said there should be fines for illegal fishing by any means.
“Government agencies always say they will stipulate fines, slap fines, but do nothing. And fish in the canal are still being annihilated.”
Meanwhile, doctors warn that fish in the city’s water bodies are not safe for human consumption due to pollution.
“The canals are still recovering and contain harmful chemicals and metals as well as pathogens and parasites,” Nguyen Thi Huynh Mai, deputy head of the city food safety agency, said.
“Eating fish from the canal may lead to dangerous worm infections as well as chronic diseases and cancer.
“There is no way to distinguish between fish from these canals and others. The only way to ensure safety is to enforce the fishing ban thoroughly in these canals.”
In what was a belated move, police began patrolling along the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal on Wednesday to enforce a fishing ban that has been widely ignored by many people, including those using electrofishing equipment.
Tran Quang Ba, a District 3 official, said police have seized dozens of fishing rods and ordered violators to release their catch back into the newly-revived canal.
Local media have reported about dead fish in the canal, attributing it to electrofishing, which has emerged also at the Tau Hu-Ben Nghe canal.
No action had been taken against violators before Wednesday's raid.
Meanwhile, the authorities are drafting regulations on fining people for violating the fishing ban.
Currently, only net and electrofishing at banned places can result in a fine, leaving a loophole for rod-fishing.