Category: Latest News

2017 – Start of the year announcements

It is with much excitement that the USFA would like to announce that the NSW State Spearfishing titles will be held on the October long weekend in conjunction with the Tomakin Sporting Clubs Fishing Bonanza. The State Titles will be a one-day pairs event on the Sunday only and as with all USFA competitions full USFA membership will be required to fish. Pair’s events are becoming more popular in our region and this is the format favoured by our neighbouring countries and the format of our most esteemed competition with them. By incorporating this competition with the Tomakin Fishing Bonanza there is the opportunity to further promote this event, promote pairs competitions and spearfishing to the broader community. On the Saturday morning we also plan to run a spearfishing induction course and then encourage experienced divers to accompany the tyro’s on a dive. There will be incentives to participate in this.

It was decided at the USFA executive meeting last Thursday to keep the USFA membership fee at $90. This was achievable due to discounts on our insurance; the level of coverage still remains the same as when the premiums were higher.  The executive have worked hard with our insurance provider to create this policy and although some feel it is too expensive, we believe it represents good value and is the best currently available to spearo’s in Australia. As spear fishers in other states and territories become aware of this policy, we expect to increase our membership footprint outside of NSW as a result.

The USFA is the peak spearfishing body in NSW and has always advocated for spearfishing access and rights to all spearo’s, be they a member of the Association or not, this is always our default position. In order to improve communication it has been agreed that we should offer a ‘social membership’ to the USFA at nil cost. This is in the hope of improving communication, inwards and outwards, and also that more people will then see the value in taking up full membership with the USFA. This social membership will not have the voting rights, insurance or other benefits of full members, however as we are the strongest voice for all spearo’s in NSW in the legislative and regulatory process, we feel improving our relationship with all of our extended tribe is very important.

Thursday evening also saw the AGM held and the re-election of the entire executive to their previous positions. Two new executives to previously unfilled positions were filled by Bob McComb as Deputy Chair and Simon Horvath as Information Officer, this new influx of experience and enthusiasm is a deliberate attempt to improve consultation with members and stakeholders. Changes to our constitution are also being discussed at the executive currently; these can only be made with the mandate of the membership. All members will be given notice well in advance and we ask that you consider these and the intent of  any changes and vote accordingly.

“Where there is unity there is always victory” (Publilius Syrus).

2016 Australian Spearfishing Team needs our help

The 2016 Australian Spearfishing Team is getting ready to smash it at New Zealand in March and USFA are 100% behind helping them get there. Any donations go into the draw for a huge prize pool.

From the team:

We're heading to the Interpacific Spearfishing Competition in New Zealand this March and are raising funds to make it happen. If you would like to make any donation it would be greatly appreciated! You can visit our fundraising page

2016 Australian Spearfishing Team2016 Australian Spearfishing Team Members Also if you would like to check out our friend Michelle de Rooy Speara's athlete page, you will notice she is doing everything she can including promotional videos on youtube to help the team go viral... Check it out!

Hello there winners (cc team and sponsors)

Congratulations to you all – please see the draw results attached.

Aust Team Raffle 2016 - winnersThanks for entering the raffle and supporting the team this year, it was certainly appreciated by us all.

It was a tough and fair competition with our men finishing 3rd and our ladies team 4th.  Both hard earned results in some very tough conditions which played right into the hands of our kiwi brothers and sisters.

We raised $3,220 through our fundraising efforts with the majority of that money being applied toward our travel and associated costs (think excess luggage!) for our 8 person strong team.

Please be sure to thank the sponsors for their generous donations and do what you can in future to support those who generously give back to our sport year after year.

Congratulations once again from myself and the rest of the team,
Mick Pannach


USFA welcomes Adreno sponsorship

The USFA has been working solidly to engage Australian Spearfishing Retailers and Suppliers to develop a more structured level of support for our USFA Social Projects and Major Competitions.

Traditionally, individual competition and event conveners needed to approach these suppliers independently for individual donated goods to supply the event prize pool. By taking this new united approach, the USFA will now negotiate a collective sponsorship and distribute the prizes in a more professional, efficient and organised fashion with greater benefit to all.

As in the past, the USFA does not endorse any one particular vendor. Many suppliers were contacted and several negotiations are still underway. All offers of support are welcomed and will be considered on their merit.

We are pleased to announce that Adreno Spearfishing Supplies is the first Retailer to offer a generous sponsorship package to go towards both the USFA Social calender and Major 2015 Competitions. The USFA deeply thanks Adreno for their contribution and looks forward to a mutually beneficial future.

Further negotiations are underway with other merchants and the USFA looks forward to passing these vast benefits onto members in return for your continued membership and participation.

You can find Adreno Spearfishing Supplies here:

Adreno Spearfishing Supplies

Dive Safe

Mel Brown – A true gentleman and custodian

Spearfishing’s greatest historical custodian and true gentleman, Mel Brown, has been honoured and humbled by his inclusion on this year’s Australia Day Honours List.

Mel was made a member of the Order of Australia for his service to recreational fishing through an extensive range of representative and advisory roles.

Mel Brown with a Yellow-tail Kingfish in 1975
Mel Brown with a Yellow-tail Kingfish in 1975

The purpose of the Order of Australia is to recognise, by national honour, those who have made outstanding contributions that benefit their communities, and ultimately our country.

The second purpose of the Order of Australia is that it serves to define, encourage and reinforce community standards, national aspirations and ideals by acknowledging actions and achievements and thereby identifying role models at all levels and in all spheres of the community.

The Underwater Skindivers and Fisherman’s Association (USFA) are extremely excited and proud of Mel’s exceptional achievement.

USFA President, Peter Saunders, was especially proud saying, “There is no one more deserving of this national recognition than Mel.  The things he has done for spearfishing and the hours he has put into this sport are just phenomenal.  He is a true gentleman and legend.”

Mel first began spearfishing in 1962 at 18 years of age.  Over the last 53 years he has held numerous vital roles within spearfishing and government bodies.

His first ever dive was on the south coast of NSW at Bulli Point, just off the rock pools.  He affectionately remembers shooting his first fish, a Rock Cale, with his trusty 2-piece brass hand spear.  He then upgraded a few years later to a telescopic model with which he was able to secure fish up to 10kg.  “After losing a few 20kg Kingfish,” he chuckles, “I thought it was time to upgrade.  My first gun was and Undersea Bantam.  I am still using a gun almost as old as that now.”

Mel began his representative duties as USFA Minutes Secretary in 1971, before moving on to other roles such as Treasurer.  He was there when the USFA changed to the NSW Underwater Federation and then again to the AUF NSW Branch.  Mel is now USFA Historian and is Australia’s greatest custodian of spearfishing history.  He has all of the original minutes, magazines, photos, t-shirts, equipment catalogues and documents dating back to April 1948 when Australian Spearfishing first took shape and the USFA was formed.  His records continue on to include the formation of the AUF in the following years up until present day, making for a rich collection of our spearfishing history in Australia.  He also owns what could easily be described as the largest collection of spearguns and early diving equipment ever seen in Australia, which he often takes to displays and events around the country.

In recent years Mel has begun the arduous process of digitising these records for future generations and uploading them to the USFA website.

Mel has been holding positions and helping spearfishing for 44 years and would be one of our longest serving workers.

“Things have changed a lot since those first days”, Mel recalls, “back then everything was written out by hand and then later transferred onto a typewriter.  We then used a Gestetner machine, which was a manual printing press of sorts, using paper stencils.”  “You might run off 50 copies and then they would have to be mailed out to the clubs and executives.  It is much easier today.  I can just send an email.”

When asked how he found the time to get all this done Mel confessed, “I was fortunate to work nightshift a the mines where I was an Electrician.  I’d get on top of my work then duck off to a quiet corner to attend to spearfishing matters.”

It is not practical to list all of the positions that Mel has held over the years and the representative and advisory bodies that he has been a part of.  However, of important significance some of his roles included:  the Advisory Council on Recreational Fishing, NSW DPI (1991 – 2006); Jervis Bay Marine Park Advisory Committee (1998 – 2003); Abalone Management Task Force (1994 – 2002); Grey Nurse Shark Recovery Team.

It was, however, his role on the Rock Lobster Management Advisory Committee (1995 – 2001) that Mel feels he did his proudest work.  Today’s Rock Lobster fishery is thriving and is in the best condition seen for decades.  Mel explained that back when he first joined the committee “the fishery was not doing very well at all.”

“There was no maximum size limit and the minimum size was far too small.  Even today it is still a little small.  They don’t really breed until they are about 2kg in size.  I’d like to see the minimum size increased. However, by us introducing the maximum size limit to protect the breeders and through the success of other management strategies we have seen a positive result.”

Mel Brown with a Cobia in 1975
Mel Brown with a Cobia in 1975

Further to this Mel recounted that “back then the ‘black market’ was out of control and the commercial fisherman had no real controls in place.  Through the committee we established protocols on the minimum/maximum size limits and introduced tagging and quota systems for the commercial lobster fishermen.”  “There was a lot of politics involved back then”, “They were going to close the recreational catch altogether”.   “It is definitely a pleasing and positive outcome that I am proud to have been a part of, especially considering I was the first ever person from a recreational fishing background to be appointed to a Commercial Fisheries Management Committee.”

When asked what he saw as the most critical issue facing today’s spearfishers, Mel indicated that “access issues and Marine Parks were probably our biggest threats” and that “education and the club systems” were our best defences available.

Over the next 5 – 10 years Mel would like to see “strong leadership in both, working with government departments and in running the USFA”.

“I am very pleased to have received this recognition.  To have spearfishing as a whole recognised nationally in such a positive light is just fantastic.  There are a lot of hard working and well deserving candidates.  It is very overwhelming yet satisfying in a humbling way.”

This level of commitment and effort for so many years comes at a personal and family sacrifice at times.  The USFA would also like to acknowledge and thank Mel’s ever supportive wife, Roslyn, for her enduring support throughout the years.

Mel is currently working towards gaining some federal support to realise his dream of truly documenting Australia’s spearfishing and diving history.  He would like to setup a diving museum and have all of his records professionally digitised and catalogued along with all his early spearfishing and scuba diving equipment displayed for all to see and enjoy.  “It would be a terrific thing.  It is important to know your sport.  To know where we have come from and how it progressed.”

“It was not that long ago that spearfishers were wearing jumpers to keep warm and making masks out of truck inner tube tyres and glass.”

“There has been such a dramatic technological development in materials and manufacturing.  It really is marvellous”.

On behalf of all spearfishers, the USFA would again like to congratulate Mel on his national recognition.  It is truly exciting and satisfying to see his dedication rewarded.

He is indeed a true gentleman and legend of this sport

Peter Walsh

USFA Vice President

USFA attends the Family Fishing Show

The weekend of the 5th and 6th April 2014 saw a bunch of dedicated USFA Committee members brave the torrid wind and rain to set up and run a successful booth at the Family Fishing Show located out at Penrith Paceway. The show, focussing on family orientated enjoyment of Recreational Fishing, sounded exactly like what the USFA were seeking; an audience focussed on the social aspects of catching food for the plate. The estimation of 30,000 show visitors made the choice to attend relatively easy. The odds looked good for us to convert at least some of these visitors into USFA members. To aid this goal we put on a show special of a $50 Senior and $20 Junior membership. But as some things go, there were hiccups to overcome along the way. I must point out here that our team met these obstacles head on and manipulated some very favourable outcomes whilst wearing a smile despite some sometimes trying conditions.

Firstly, due to heavy rainfall the week preceding the event, the location of the show was picked up and moved from Parramatta Park to Penrith Paceway. A brave move by the organisers the week before the scheduled event. However, there was not much choice available as the ‘Powers that be’ at Parramatta Park had threatened to possibly cancel altogether if the poor weather continued. The event co-ordinators did an exceptional job just to be ready in time and due credit must be given in this regard. However, it also saw a few other obstacles appear with last minute arrangements and organisation.

The USFA team comprised of USFA Historian, Mel Brown, who despite having a bung shoulder ready for surgery put in a solid three full days. Mel also bought along a selection of Historical items for display including vintage Fins, Guns, Snorkels with ping pong balls, and even a mask made from a car tyre inner tube and piece of glass! Classic stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed looking through the old photos and listening to Mel explain the history behind our pioneers and their equipment, nearly all self-made. The crowd too, were impressed. Thank You Mel. Resident Fish Expert, Sascha Schulz, made the trip from Berima on the Friday to help us set up. His underlying Electrical Engineering qualification also became handy when we had to navigate the Penrith Paceway Electrical system to get some safe power for our stand. Thanks Sash.

Max Gordon-Hall, having driven 6 hours from Bathurst on the Friday to help setup, also proved invaluable as he was ordered to the very top of the ladder to hook up his event-saving tarpaulin that he just happened to have in the back of his car! The driving rain and wind was kept at bay thanks to that lovely tarp!! Max also assisted the following day at the booth before making the arduous drive back to Bathurst to start work by 8pm that night. Impressive effort. Thanks Max.

USFA President, Peter Saunders, was also on hand each day and was a great asset in converting semi-interested onlookers into excited potential members, especially those of the fairer sex! On a more serious note, Peter and I were able to spend time with many of our Fishing and political allies to strengthen and strategise our common goals for a stronger future. This alone, was worth the effort of the event. Thank You Pete. Alby Cooke, despite having just emerged from hospital for surgery to his arm, made the trip down from Terrigal and put in a full days effort at the stand. Nothing was too much effort for him and he was a great help. Thank You Alby.

Simon Trippe and Andrew Harvey were guest speakers at the event and kept the crowds enthralled with their safety and Jewfish presentations. They too, assisted the team in spruiking the joys of safe diving. Thank You guys for your support. Thanks must also go out to our ever serving Treasurer, Lee Dalli, who , despite having worked through the night made sure we had USFA shirts, eskys, drinks, membership forms, magazines and a host of other things that were critical to our success. What would we do without you Lee? Thank You!

At the booth we had a large assortment of back issues of our USFA Skindiver Magazine, and boy did they go like hotcakes! We managed to slip a membership form and the Spearfishing Guide into each bundle and I would estimate we gave out several hundred Spearfishing Safely DVDs, Membership forms, Guides to Spearfishing and magazines. Plenty of great information out in to the public! I was very impressed with the number of people who took interest in what we had to say and they were even more impressed when we were able to back it up and give them a Safety DVD and Guide to Spearfishing. Many mothers, Fathers and Grand Parents were taking them for people “who could do with this information”. Great stuff, exactly what was being aimed for when these resources were developed. Similarly, many were impressed to hear about our Code of Conduct and mentoring strategies delivered through our club network up and down the coast. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few new faces at club meetings over the next few months.

We had video footage running on two 42 inch TVs the entire time which also kept the crowds interested. A huge Thank You goes out to Michael Tackach for giving us the opportunity to play his exceptional footage throughout the weekend. The Jew schools stopped them in their tracks!! Many were impressed by the marine life available and the selectiveness of spearfishing. I can honestly say there was not one bad comment about spearfishing and I believe this was due to our members actively engaging anybody who even dared to stare in our direction and then giving them quality information and answering all their questions. Once again, a valuable strategy working towards changing any possible poor perception of spearfishing in the general public.

So even though it poured rain, the numbers to the show were not as high as expected and we had to overcome a number of obstacles we still had a roaring success. We had members that went beyond the call of duty to work together and improvise and we reached out to a very large proportion of those who came through the gates. We sold our values of safety and sustainability well and we distributed an enormous amount of material directly to those who were interested. Thank You again to our team and I look forward to an even bigger event next year. Max, you better pack that tarp again…. just in case!


Dive Safe Peter Walsh USFA Vice President

Sting remedy flawed

Vinegar may kill rather than cure victims of box jellyfish stings, Queensland researches found. The remedy, used for decades, causes up to 60 per cent more venom from the lethal jellyfish to discharched into the victim.

The finding prompted calls for the Australian Resuscitation Council to revise its sting treatment guidelines.

Research co-author and venom specialist Jamie Seymour says the research changed hist mind about vinegar.

AAP. Illawara Mercury, Wednesday April 9, 2014.

Shared responsibility is the best approach to protecting our waterways

An oil discharge into Botany Bay during heavy rain last month has highlighted the potential impact that industry and natural weather events can have on our urban waterways.
Following the release of oily water into Botany Bay by Caltex Refineries as part of the company’s stormwater management emergency procedures at its Kurnell premises, oil was blown to the northern shoreline and onto rock platforms at Congwong and Little Congwong beaches. NSW Environment Protection Authority Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford said businesses, individuals, emergency response services and regulatory authorities such as the EPA all have a role to play to prevent and/or minimise impacts to the environment during such incidents.

“While pollution incidents can often be exacerbated or even caused by extreme weather events such as heavy rain, environmental impacts such as that which occurred following this incident on 24 March are unacceptable,” said Mr Gifford. “Industries regulated by the EPA under Environment Protection Licences (EPL) have a duty to report pollution incidents threatening or causing harm to the environment, and are required to prepare Pollution Incident Response Management Plans. “The EPA also relies on members of the public who are aware of pollution to report incidents so the appropriate authorities can act as soon as possible.” There are a number of regulatory authorities who respond to water pollution incidents, including councils, marine authorities and Sydney Water, but in the first instance people can call the EPA’s Environment Line, 131 555, 24 hours a day seven days a week to report incidents. The appropriate response agency is determined by the nature, size, source and location of the water pollution incident. Typically, small incidents are managed by the local council, but if the incident involves hazardous materials, an emergency response service such as Ports Authority, Roads and Maritime Services or NSW Fire and Rescue will be the lead combat agency in charge of the initial clean-up. The EPA provides assistance and advice to combat agencies during incidents when requested and investigates suspected breaches of environmental laws. “Regardless of whether or not the EPA has been asked to assist during an incident, as the state’s lead environmental regulator we will always have officers on standby to attend and assess any environmental impacts,” said Mr Gifford.

“The EPA takes into account a range of factors when determining our response to pollution incidents. This includes the degree of environmental harm, health impacts, community expectations and the actions of the offender,” said Mr Gifford. “We have a range of regulatory tools we can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, clean up or prevention notices, mandatory audits, enforceable undertakings, penalty notices, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions. “Our regulatory response is designed to hold the polluter to account, raise awareness about the problem, encourage behavioural change and repair any environment damage.” In the case of the Botany Bay incident, the EPA issued Caltex with clean-up notices to implement an ecological assessment program. The EPA is also conducting a detailed investigation into the incident. For more information on reporting pollution and the relevant regulatory authorities throughout NSW: EPA’s water pollution contact page. Meanwhile, people shouldn’t swim at ocean or harbour beaches during or after heavy rain. For more warnings about safe swimming, beach pollution forecasts for the Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra regions and the State of the Beaches 2012-13 report, visit Beachwatch NSW.

Other helpful links and contacts: All boat owners should understand their responsibilities for preventing pollution under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

Source: NSW EPA - April 2014