Category: Rules and Regulations

The following articles are used to define and indicate the source of authority for the issuance of various policies, regulations and rules by which USFA governs itself and its members.

The USFA’s Issues with the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment

The NSW Government is inviting your comments on suggested management initiatives to enhance marine biodiversity in the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion. Please note that the consultation period has been extended until Sunday 8th May 2016.

The Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA) has created a  discussion paper where they describe eight suggested management initiatives in the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment. The USFA agrees with most of these Initiatives except for Initiative 4 - Spatial Management.

Spatial management is basically another name for Lockouts. The USFA is opposed to lockouts as we believe there are better management strategies than total lockouts.

USFA's Matthew Poulton answers some questions on what the  Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion assessment created by the Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA) means for spear fishers in NSW, Sydney, Newcastle & Wollongong.
The USFA’s Issues with the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment
A better picture showing the expanse of the region under assessment
The Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion under assessment

The Assessment has identified 15 main sites and 44 additional sites. The implications are that as many of these sites as possible will be locked up for good.  Continue reading The USFA’s Issues with the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment

USFA 2016 address to Spearfishers

Another new year has come around and therefore timely that I make mention of some good things that will continue on benefitting all spearos. In the USFA we are fortunate to have many talented members who willingly volunteer their time to assist in the running of the Association.

The One Up One Down pairs events were well received, why would they not be as any new members are invited to dive and be paired with some seriously outstanding spearos who choose to give up their time to assist newcomers to the sport and show them the ropes for a few hours. Continue reading USFA 2016 address to Spearfishers

Local Competition Rules for USFA – Sydney Metro Zone

Adopted 12/1/09………
Revised ……………

  1. These rules are to read in conjunction with the current USFA competition rules.


  1. Dates of Alliman Shields Competition

a) The first Sunday of every month of the year, except January, Mother’s Day, long weekends and major championships. Dates for the upcoming year are to be notified three (3) months prior to commencement.  The year commences 1st January and completes 31st  Where agreed, Allimans may be held in conjunction with major metro controlled events.

b) A notified date shall not include any date which has been allocated to another championship event except as in (a) above. It shall also not include any date which has been previously notified by any club as a veto date.  Veto date must be notified to committee at least four (4) months prior to the upcoming competition year.

c) Alliman Shields must be held on the notified scheduled dates.

d) Allimans will start and finish at the following times

  • January, February, March, April, May, June - 8am till 1.15pm
  • July, August, September, October, November, December –  8am till 1.15pm

These times may vary only where an Alliman is conducted in conjunction with a major Metro controlled competition normally 8am till 2pm or as otherwise notified at the venue.

Continue reading Local Competition Rules for USFA – Sydney Metro Zone

USFA Press Release: Illegal Spearing of Grey Nurse Shark

Disturbing news is emerging tonight with reports and photographs on social media of two men with spear guns confronted on the beach at Mona Vale, Sydney with a speared Grey Nurse Shark on Sunday 2nd August 2015. The Underwater Skindivers and Fisherman’s Association (USFA) do not condone any illegal practise by NSW spearfishers who do not comply with Fisheries regulations and laws.

The juvenile 1.2m Protected Shark had been shot twice in the head and from an angle that denotes a deliberate act and not a result of self-defence.

When confronted the men feigned poor English and then said the shark had “tried to kill them” before throwing the dead shark back into the ocean along with the rest of their catch.

The two men fled the location in a champagne coloured Nissan Patrol 4WD still wearing wetsuits with numberplates being seen by a few and forwarded to Fisheries.

The Underwater Skindivers and Fisherman’s Association (USFA) would like to remind all spearfishers that every time you pull on a wetsuit you are representing not just yourself but the entire sport, that at all times you must uphold the highest level of ethical standards, abide by all laws and adhere to the USFA Rules and Regulations.

The USFA has also developed the Code of Conduct for Grey Nurse Sharks to assist spearfishers with their interactions with GNS.

This code represents the minimum standards of behaviour and actions required when Spearfishing in proximity to Grey Nurse Sharks. The code is part of the membership commitments to the Underwater Skindivers and Fishermen’s Association (USFA). It also serves as the default standard for all NSW Spearfishers.

Code of Conduct for Grey Nurse Sharks

When spearfishing near where Grey Nurse Sharks congregate:

  • Keep a minimum distance of five (5) metres at all times.
  • Do not knowingly allow sharks to steal catches.
  • Refrain from all forms of flashlight photography of sharks.
  • When sharks move to within five (5) metres discreetly retreat avoiding the projected path of the shark. If the sharks appear agitated, move out of the area.
  • Assist in any scientific research in conjunction with NSW DPI personnel.
  • Maintain and share records of shark populations to be able to ascertain whether they may be increasing or decreasing over periods.
  • When operating in Grey Nurse Shark locations, try to limit direct interaction.
  • Educate other spearfishers who may not be aware of, or otherwise regulated by the USFA code.

The Underwater Skindivers and Fisherman’s Association (USFA) would like all members to assist in any way possible to identify these men so that their details can be forwarded to Fisheries. Report illegal or suspect fishing activities to your nearest Fisheries Office or use the Fishers Watch Phone line on 1800 043 536 or complete the online report form.
The USFA can also be alerted to assist via our Contact Us page. Please address the Secretary
Peter Walsh
USFA Vice President

Australian Marine Park Information

Understanding the rules

A word of caution: If you break the Marine Parks rules and are charged, it does not matter if you did not know you were breaking the rules. Ignorance is not a valid legal defence.

What is a “no-take” area?

An area where all forms of fishing, recreational and commercial is banned. This includes gathering shellfish or crustaceans or collecting seaweed.

How is a Marine Park mean to work?

By setting aside areas for protection, the aim is to create a system of areas which are not harvested, and which can supply adults and juveniles to the surrounding areas which are still open to fishing.

Does it work?

For some species, particularly long-lived and territorial species, yes, Marine Parks can work quite well. For other species, especially open-ocean, pelagic species such as tuna; the no-take areas would have to cover massive areas of ocean to be effective.


Commonwealth marine reserves:
South-west | North-west | North | Great Barrier Reef | Coral Sea | Temperate East | South-east | Heard Island and McDonald Islands

Map of Australia's network of Commonwealth marine reserves (PDF - 842.05 KB)

New South Wales

There are six Marine Parks currently gazetted in NSW:
Cape Byron | Solitary Islands | Port Stephens-Great Lakes | Jervis Bay | Batemans Bay | Lord Howe Island


The three state marine parks in Queensland are:
Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park | Great Sandy Marine Park | Moreton Bay Marine Park


South Australia

West Australia


Northern Territory
Limmen Bight Marine Park 

NSW Fisheries Information – Department of Primary Industries

The NSW Fisheries department is charged with the sustainable management of fisheries activities that take place in NSW. The Fisheries Management Act gives certain powers to the NSW Fisheries Officers and they apply the Fisheries Management (General) Regulation. The Regulations are reviewed on a regular basis with input from stakeholders such as recreational and commercial fishers; as well as conservation groups.

A word of caution: If you break the recreational fishing rules and are charged, it does not matter if you did not know you were breaking the rules. Ignorance is not a valid legal defence.

Understanding the rules

What is a “fish”?

For the purposes of legislation and regulations dealing with fishing activities the term fish means:

  • Sharks and rays
  • Bony fishes such as bream and morwong
  • Cephalopods such as squid and cuttlefish
  • Crustaceans such as crabs and lobster
  • Oysters and other molluscs
  • Echinoderms such as sea urchins
  • Beachworms and other polychaetes

And the definition applies regardless whether the animal is dead or alive, or has been cut into pieces.

What is meant by “take or attempt to take”?

The “taking” of fish (see above list for what a ‘fish” is), is the act of catching and killing a fish, gathering or collecting fish, or removing fish from a rock or other attachment point. “Attempting to take” means you were trying to take a fish. In legal terms, it doesn’t matter if you were successful at killing a protected species, if you had the intent to do so; you are guilty of an offense.

What is the difference between the terms bag limit and possession limit?

The term “bag limit” refers to the amount you are allowed to catch on a given day, “possession limit” refers to the TOTAL amount you are allowed to have in your possession, say in your catch bag at the boat ramp, and at home in your freezer. A good example is Luderick, where the daily bag limit is 10 (as at November 2014), but the possession limit is 20.

What if I have accidentally done the wrong thing?

If you’re lucky and the NSW Fisheries official is in a very forgiving mood, you may get off with a warning. However that should be considered the height of good fortune and if you are in possession of a protected species, under size fish or are over the possession limit, a fine is the very least you can expect. Penalties can include time in goal.

What is considered poaching?

As recreational fishers, Spearfishers cannot sell their catch. “Selling” is defined as taking fish to sell, swap, barter or otherwise gain a benefit, or attempting to do so. It is illegal. End of story.

An example might be where you catch a good bag of bream and offer them to your local takeaway in exchange for other food. That is illegal.

What about spearing fish for family and friends?

That is ok. But remember, many species of reef fish are long-lived and territorial. No one intends to deplete local populations of a particular fish species, but overfishing can and does have local impacts.

Know where you can and can’t spearfish

To begin with, currently all freshwater creeks, streams, rivers, lakes, impoundments and dams are closed to spearfishing. The ‘Freshwater’ begins at the tidal limit of rivers that empty into the sea.

Are the any areas where I can’t spearfish but where other forms of fishing are allowed?

Yes, other than the above freshwater areas, see the link below for a comprehensive list.

In the listed areas all forms of taking fish with spear is prohibited. Some of the closures are historic, other’s are to prevent divers interacting with boats, whilst some were simply the result of politics.