Two young anglers snagged a surprise catch off the waters of Bedok Jetty recently.
Teo Xue Shen and Ho Song Thye, both 23, were fishing recreationally at the jetty on Jan. 16 late at night.
The pair are part of Jives Fishing, a group that promotes sustainable fishing practices in Singapore.
Thought they caught a stingray
Speaking to Mothership, Teo shared that they initially thought a large stingray had taken the bait.
Teo and Ho only realised it was a shovelnose ray when it surfaced.
It took them around 6 minutes and 31 seconds to reel in the huge fish, as they faced some difficulties when trying to bring it up to the jetty while minimising harm, fatigue, and the time spent out of the water.
Hauling it out of the water, Teo estimated that the shovelnose ray was between 1.7m to 2m in length and weighed around 20kg.
Do "our best" by releasing critically endangered catches
They shared in a Instagram post on the Jives Fishing page that to catch an individual of this species is akin to reaching the pinnacle of surf fishing in Singapore.
This is likely due to its impressive size — they can reach up to 2.7m — and its rarity.
Shovelnose rays are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Due to its endangered status, Teo and Ho subsequently released it back into the waters after snapping a photo with their prized catch.
While it is Jives Fishing's goal to fish sustainably, the group said in their post that they understand the sentiments of those who want to keep their catches.
"The effort of thousands of casts, hundreds of hours of waiting, weathering the elements and so many other factors make a prized catch like this all the more coveted as a take-home feed for the family."
However, Jives Fishing believes that "some things are more important than that", and that by conserving the species, future generations of anglers will have the opportunity to marvel at the shovelnose ray like Teo and Ho did that night.
As such, they simply do the best they can to protect the species by releasing it back into the wild.
"Singapore does not have laws to protect this species (or any species for that matter) from recreational fishing. And if no one wants to be the 'idiot' who let their dinner swim free, then this fish is headed for extinction for sure. We don't know how far this individual will go in the conservation of the species, but at this point, we can only do our best."
Here are some of Jives Fishing's other catches.
Jives Fishing decides which fishes to keep for consumption or release based on guidelines set up by Marine Stewards, a sustainable fishing group.
Marine Stewards' website also includes a list of the maturity lengths of fishes found in Singapore waters, to help anglers identify juveniles.
According to the National Parks Board (NParks), catch-and-release should apply to endangered species, juvenile fishes and brooding animals. In addition, fish caught but which will not be eaten should also be released.
In addition, NParks and Marine Stewards have put up an information board at Bedok Jetty, which showcases the common fish species found there, as well as a catch-and-release list.
More about the shovelnose ray
Shovelnose rays might look like sharks with their upward-pointing dorsal finds, but are actually rays, as their name suggests.
The species is critically endangered as individuals are often hunted for their meat, which is considered a delicacy and used in a dish known as "shark head".
In 2019, Mothership visited an NTUC FairPrice outlet and found shovelnose rays being sold at rather affordable prices.
They are also commonly seen being sold at Jurong Fishery Port.
And while international trade for critically endangered animals like the shovelnose ray is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), such protection isn't extended to shovelnose rays that are caught in Singapore waters and sold locally.
Top photo from Jives Fishing