An evening discussion of Spear Fishing Ethics & Sustainability

Ian - Fisheries
Ian - Fisheries

The origin of this seminar was brought about due to the World Wide Web continually being under estimated by spear fishermen , that’s us!

Where many praise a Billfish capture; a large fish say a Mulloway that is happened upon while spearing Bream for tea; catching your bag limit of just legal (maximum) lobsters, there are the people who will taunt you for doing this. There are several errors of judgement we can make as a hunter and gatherer when using social media.

Purely unintentionally, we show images of our fish on social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook, photos that seem harmless to you, and are perfectly legal. Images such as having a successful day or fishing trip and displaying the great size of your catch or the single large and bloodied specimen, placing it on media to show friends and family of your success; yet these images can be shouted down by the PC spearo crowd of “only take what you need” and perhaps the odd comment such as “I despise you and hope a shark eats you alive” that is thrown in by your step sister’s cousins university vegan friends who happen upon your post.

Ian - Fisheries
Ian - Fisheries

Yep, and to think you hadn’t been for a fish for three months and likely to be another three the way your wife complained about the smell of fish in the backyard, so you caught a few good fish that would keep you in protein for a few family meals. Shame many don’t see that. They just see, dead fish, lots of them, bloodied, and with holes, big holes. Do you need to filter who sees these photos? Or do you unfortunately waste longer defending the picture and your right to choose a sustainable hunting technique that puts food on the table than you actually spent time in the water.

Believe it or not these legal images that are complained about are the least of our concerns compared to the thoughtless diver who poses in a photo of just himself with his whole teams catch of rock lobster, or, of just his image laying down with many large kingfish, caught by the boat crew, on the floor, bringing into question the validity of the catch exceeding bag limits, and again, “why take so many?!? You spearos cheat, you spearos are murderers!” Do you think about whether it is wise to show off to your work mates by surrounding yourself in everyone else’s catch?

Simon & Ian
Simon & Ian

Then there is the rogue spearo who chooses to ignore the fact that every time he puts on a wetsuit that he is an ambassador for all spearfishers, disowning our well known catch cry of “selective and sustainable”. This fellow by displaying pictures of undersize fish, images of catches well exceeding bag limits, and even posing with protected species he is publicly decrying any proper ethical behaviour and showing himself to either be extremely unintelligent or has an opinion he is above the law. Perhaps, he just doesn’t get it? This spearo is generally shunned by all, very quickly, especially after sound advice and recommendations of what is proper, generally inappropriate or against the law. Yet occasionally this rogue diver is supported by others, his companions. The path here becomes tricky as infighting among spear fishing ranks occurs. There is no desirable outcome for anybody. Do you know the fisheries regulations?

What of the diver who publishes large catches every day, or a “trophy” fish every other day? Bringing into question, “does this guy ever work?” And, “how does he sustain himself? Man cannot live on fish alone in the 21st century” You have not come down in yesterday’s shower to have come up with a suitable equation for this type of diver.

Attendees
Attendees

One diver you may call naive, the other a criminal, the other a poacher ok he’s a criminal as well. The former may be recognised as a spearo, the other two? Definitely not, they do not comply with the code; they do not have the right to wear that wetsuit representing us all. Why these kind of divers put up photos at all is beyond logic as it draws attention onto themselves. Why people willingly go out to break the fisheries regulations of size and bag limits is equally as baffling to me yet there are people out there still doing it today.

Fisheries eventually catch up with these guys, I have seen a few heads on facebook suddenly pull their FB page and disappear, but it’s too late for them by then. Fisheries and the people who don’t wish for us to go spearfishing have got the images of the photos and where the former use them against you when you have that day wearing a suit in court; the latter smash the good guys, the spearo who prides themselves wearing their uniform. The anti’s and Green really use it as ammunition in their fight to close down our areas and stop us from spear fishing. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Attendees with some goodies from Fisheries
Attendees with some goodies from Fisheries

We demonstrate sustainable practice by thinking about how much we will actually eat before we take more, we demonstrate ethics by following the regulations that are there for good reason (remember all of us in NSW had the opportunity to make suggestions for the latest fisheries regulations).

We all like to put up a photo of a great day out, many clever spearos are showing a great catch with perhaps a scintillating sunset in the background or the backdrop of a glass out, clear day and the terra firma in the background – these pics are magnificent and appreciated by our like-minded buddies, whether it be a great haul with a group of dive buddies or that cracker trophy fish the clever spearos are adding that extra touch of nature to the photo. These are great images and it’s hard for anyone to knock a photo shared by someone who is out there in nature and enjoying the gifts that it can bestow upon us, the fish is just part of the experience you are sharing on the www.

The seminar was well attended with 40 divers and the talk was well received. Some good questions were raised on the topics discussed; Recreational catch effort compared to Professional fishing effort; the breeding sizes of favoured species and therefore why we have minimum/maximum size limits (hopefully every fish gets that one chance to breed in its life cycle) and bag limits for these species(sustainability). What our rec fishing licence fee money is spent on – such things as offshore FADs (Fish Attracting Device) and OARs (Offshore Artificial Reef systems)

Simon Trippe
Simon Trippe

It was good to see many spearos there who were non USFA, yet still upstanding members of the spearfishing community. I truly believe that some behaviours will change from the discussions had that evening; the tentacles of good practice will spread as those there will continue to carry it on. All there agreed that there is greater strength in unity. We need unity; we need to be all on the same page when it comes to sustainable and ethical practice. We all need to educate those around us who are unknowingly doing harm, to all challenge the behaviour of anyone who fails to abide by the spearfishing code of conduct. Simply to make them mindful of who we have to combat every day - the people who wish to prevent our recreation and method we use to put food on the table from continuing. As a wise man once said “Ethical behaviour is doing the right thing when no one else is watching – even when doing the wrong thing is legal”

Safe diving and see you down there!