Sutherland Shire Council Meeting – Mayor’s Motion regarding boundaries for Spearfishing

Monday February 19th

Sutherland Shire Council Meeting – Mayor’s Motion regarding boundaries for Spearfishing – Shelly Beach to Bass and Flinders Point. Creating a new Aquatic Reserve therefore increasing the spearfishing exclusion boundaries.  USFA protested peacefully against these Mayoral motions and offered solutions.

USFA Members hold your heads up high!

Last night’s Sutherland Shire council meeting saw an overwhelming number of recreational fishers attending to offer solutions to be able to share the marine resource rather than have spearfishers excluded losing safe access to more of our treasured shallow water hunting grounds.

Every single fishing representative in attendance, close to 150 rec fishers showed class and dignity and gave respect to others of the public, showing the Council the quality of people involved in recreational fishing. Council staff mentioning they had not seen such numbers in attendance at any Council meeting previously.             

The Crux of the matter: A protected specie – the Blue Groper was speared, by an unlicensed fisher new to the country, therefore due to the actions of one person fishers are to lose territory.

Julian, Hon. Mark Banasiak MLC, Alex Bellisimo, Simon Trippe USFA President

Our Association and its members boast many generations of experience dealing with issues relating to sharing the spatial areas that we use with other stakeholders and this again came to the fore as the talks given by David McGowan (Pt Hacking Penguins) and Charl deVilliers (St George Dragons President) were on point. 

Dave McGowan

David mentioning the benefits of the ocean for our health and well-being “the ocean is the antidote to modern life”; David expressing that we could flip this problem to an opportunity to solve this together, “as changes to the rules wont change behaviour… yet an engaged community from all sides with guidance and leadership from governing bodies could lead to great things for the marine environment further benefitting the community… Do we turn our backs on each other, close the door and lock it down, or do we open for community collaboration and positive change?

Charl pointing out that the La Perouse aboriginal land council had not been consulted. Charl expressed there were 40 000 rec fishers in the Shire; he queried the lack of good, respectful and collaborative approach liaising with the community to solve the problems, and finally he asked Council to stop special interest groups who request exclusive access to the public domain.

Note, the USFA, and its speakers representing tonight absolutely condemns the taking of Blue Groper by spear. Spearfishers are not at fault here.

We suggest to the Minister, her Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, and the Sutherland Shire Council the following:

Education: The USFA would like to be involved with the Department to assist concerned locals in communities, and recreational fishers on the fishing regulations, and to promote spearfishing in its best light where people are realising the huge positive impact it has on fitness, well-being and mental health. An open day at Oak Park promoted by governing bodies assisted by USFA local members would be a great start to this ongoing education.  Too, encouraging local dive and tackle stores to promote awareness of the Blue Groper.

Science:  That there needs to be an index of abundance on Blue Groper. The species have been in an eruptive phase for several decades and it would be worth looking to see if they are a threatening process to other species due to their inter-specific hyper dominant nature, and their sheer biomass. You would look to adaptive management based upon the science and monitoring.  The USFA would be happy to assist with this research.

The Mayor and Councillors were impressed by the spearfishers and had good discussion and decided to make amendments to forward on to the Minister. Council looks forward to positive collaboration with community stakeholders and USFA in the ongoing education of people in the benefits of spearfishing and those coming into their community enjoying the wonderful Marine environment the Shire offers.

Thanks must go to the Hon. Mark Banasiak MLC and his amazing team from the SFF Party, Mark you have always stood by the spearo, thank you so much; the amazing crew at St George and Sutherland Shire Anglers Club who turned in in great numbers; various members of the Stop the Lockout Alliance with their banners; the Spearfishing clubs, our tribe! Port Hacking Penguins, St George Dragons, Sans Souci Dolphins, North Shore Sea Hawks (at least 7 members from the Northern beaches came to support!) plus, legends like Alex Bellismo; the Wild Foodmeister; Fergo’s Tackleworld staff, cheers Johnny and team! Adreno Legends – thanks Craig Seadog for being there too, and lastly Danil Hike, Nick Tang, Melven Brown AO, and Bob McComb, what a think tank and awesome action group you guys were with the countless days combined you spent on this with Charlie and David, thank you all so much.

You all came, you were respectful, we left a great impression, thank you! Now for the Minister’s announcement to come, watch this space…..

3 USFA Presidents Bob McComb, Jack Jones, Simon Trippe. Jack is now a keen angler with St George and Sutherland Shire Anglers.

Oak Park Groper issue heats up

Correspondence to the Minister for Agriculture

Correspondence has been sent to the Hon Tara Moriarty MLC Minister for Agriculture regarding the “noise” the USFA are hearing from Sutherland Shire Council, and their Mayor, regarding their appeal to extend the no spearfishing  zone in the Cronulla area and make the area an Aquatic Reserve.  This reaction from the Mayor has occurred from the unfortunate incident of the speared blue groper at that site at the beginning of the year. The USFA will always fight for safe access and will not yield this ground unless unbiased science proves otherwise.

What was detailed in the letter sent to the Minister was our good relationship; how we condemned the act of the person spearing the Groper, reminding the Minister it was the USFA who pushed for the protection of Groper in the late 1960’s;  how USFA members have much experience in sharing the spatial area equitably with other stakeholders and that we could assist the Department with this current issue.

We offered solutions such as better science and education:Science where there needs to be an index of abundance done on the Blue Groper as they have been in an eruptive phase for several decades and it would be worth looking to see if they are a threatening process to other species due to their inter-specific hyper dominant nature, as well as their sheer biomass and from these findings look to adaptive management based upon the science and monitoring.  Of course we offer assistance in this research.

Education and ethics are central to our Association and members of the USFA engage positively with members of the public.  Education will not prevent this incident from happening again, however it will reduce the incidents. We offered our involvement with the Department to assist in engaging locals and rec fishers on fishing regulations, and to promote spearfishing in its best light where people are realising the huge positive impact it has on fitness, well-being and mental health, an education day at Oak Park with spearfishing representatives engaging locals and rec fishers was suggested.   Too, encouraging dive outlets and tackle stores to promote awareness of the Blue Groper.

I encourage spearfishers to attend the Council Meeting being held this Monday February 19th from 18 at Level 2, Council Administration Building, 4-20 Eton Street, Sutherland.  Bring a friend.

Thank you

Simon Trippe

President USFA NSW

USFA SYDNEY CHAMPIONSHIP

SYDNEY CUP

Spearfishing Extravaganza at Gunnamatta: A Sizzling Showdown Under the Waves!

Date & Location: 21st January 2024 at Gunnamatta

The sun was high, the ocean shimmering, and the excitement palpable as 21 daring competitors gathered at the picturesque Gunnamatta Bay for the hottest spearfishing competition of the year. The conditions? Well, they were downright sizzling with a temperature soaring to a scorching 39 degrees, making it a perfect day for a splash in the deep blue.

The underwater world was a mixed bag, like a buffet of visibility. Some spots offered poor visibility, creating an intense challenge for the competitors, while other areas revealed a clear underwater wonderland with visibility exceeding 10 meters. It was a true test of skill and adaptability as spearfishers navigated the ever-changing underwater landscape.

Our intrepid contestants, armed with their spears and clad in wetsuits, took the plunge, each hoping to emerge victorious and claim one (or more) of the various categories. The number of competitors, a solid 21, showcased the growing popularity and passion for spearfishing in the community.

Now, let’s talk about the man of the hour—Warren Carter of the Port Hacking Penguins. With a skilful finesse and an uncanny ability to spot the elusive underwater prey, Warren emerged as the highest scorer on this blistering day. The Penguins must have some secret weapon hidden in their icebergs because Warren’s performance was nothing short of spectacular!

Warren Carter, Sydney Cup Champion and Gunther Pfrengle, Runner up
Father and Son Lee and Sam Dalli

Of course, what’s a competition without some fabulous prizes? Dive store Adreno  generously donated over $1000 in Adreno vouchers, creating a treasure trove of rewards for the winners. The vouchers were spread across various categories, ensuring that excellence in different aspects of spearfishing was duly recognised.

As the sun set on this thrilling day of underwater adventure, the competition was far from over. A sizzling BBQ awaited the exhausted but jubilant competitors, turning the post-event atmosphere into a delicious fiesta. Tales of the ones that got away, and the camaraderie of like-minded adventurers also filled the air. A standing ovation and a sizzling shout-out to the BBQ maestro extraordinaire, Deanne Kieselbach! Deanne, we can’t thank you enough for generously volunteering your time and BBQ skills.

Deanne on the tongs

Until next year’s Sydney Cup, keep those spears sharp and your eyes peeled for the next big catch.

USFA SPORTS SECRETARY – Pat Ireland

Sydney Cup Open Champion – Warren Carter (Penguins) 678pts 14 species

Runner Up and Grand Masters Champion – Gunther Pfrengle (Dragons) 583pts

3rd Placegetter Derrick Cruz (Dolphins) 502pts

Derrick Cruz 3rd place with a 4200gm Rock Blackfish and good Bream
St George Dragons legends Mick Arentz and Gunther Pfrengle

Lee with Adreno winner Ben Favorito from the Dragons
Happy Adreno recipeient Marty Kieselbach from the Penguins

USFA statement on speared Groper

In light of the recent hand spearing of a Groper at Oak Park, Cronulla where the diver was subsequently fined by authorities for taking a protected NSW marine species, the USFA continues to encourage positive participation in Spearfishing.

The USFA absolutely condemns this isolated act. Spearfishers across the State are upset with this random behaviour that does not represent proper spearfishing practice in any way.

The USFA pushed for the protection of Blue Groper in NSW, and introduced a ban on Blue Groper amongst their association before it became formal.

Education and ethics are central to the Association, and members of the USFA continually engage positively with all participating stakeholders of the marine environment, adhering to our stringent Code of Conduct. https://usfa.org.au/usfa-code/

The USFA are happy to assist newcomers to spearfishing and direct them to the many clubs around NSW that are the learning portals that lead to continued ethical and sustainable fishing. 

Spearfishers meet the Minister

Bob McComb, Hon. Tara Moriarty, Simon Trippe, Mel Brown AM, Hon. Mark Banasiak

Thursday 30th November 

Mel Brown AM, Bob McComb and myself arrived at Parliament House to meet several politicians to discuss  spearfishing. The Hon. Robert Borsak and the Hon. Mark Banasiak who represent the Shooters and Fishers Party greeted the USFA warmly and a great discussion began about the proposed right to hunt bill, which will include us fishers and spearfishers, and will go lengths to ensure we will have the threat of lockouts extinguished.

Prepped with the confirmation that the SFP will support spearfishers (as was evidenced at the recent proposed Bongin Bongin beach sanctuary supported by the Greens) and with further understanding of the political landscape at Macquarie Street, Mark kindly took us to meet the Hon. Tara Moriarty the Minister for Agriculture (Fisheries is in the portfolio). 

This was the first time we have met the new Minister, and Tara was extremely gracious throughout the meeting. We were pleasantly surprised to have the Fisheries Deputy Director General, Sean Sloan, join our meeting online. 

Mel, Bob and I (over 100 years of spearfishing lobbying between us) discussed points of interest. Discussing topics such as:

  • the USFA advocating ethics, education, safety, inclusion, and spearfishers rights to fish for 75 years, the need for safe access for all age groups and abilities was stressed.
  • North Harbour Aquatic Reserve, where spearfishers are the only stakeholder omitted from the reserve, it was a decision made with the flick of a pen with no scientific evidence behind it, nor in 40 years has any scientific data been shown why it should be denied to us. We have requested the Reserve (there are two) particularly the areas around North Head and Dobroyd Point include spearfishing.
  • How we could work together to promote spearfishing on International Women’s Day.
  • Informing the Minister of our membership: including our newer clubs like the Orca’s who have up to 500 members involved in their club, and indigenous spearfishing club the Mulloways, all eight USFA clubs various activities were mentioned.
  • Discussed the recent Sydney Kingfish Cup with its record sign on and growth, and how we contribute to science with Fisheries biologists, giving presentations during the fanfare of the Cup, and were involved with sample collections from the Kingfish to use in their research
  • Requesting a Centre of Excellence. Providing a venue where all fishers can meet and further bond community ties, display historic items, a venue to develop future fishers and spearfishers.
  • Slot sizes and the issues spearfishers face when imposed on finfish species were discussed, spearfishing is not a trophy fishery, we requested the regulation imposed on spearfishers regarding the Dusky Flathead be reviewed and we would like to go back to the original regulation for spearfishers, that is one fish over 70cm is allowed.
  • Having an endorsed spearfishing representative, think someone who actually spearfishes and is approved of by the two NSW spearfishing associations, who will ensure transparent communications with the Minister, Fisheries and all spearfishers across NSW, keeping us abreast of current topics and arising points of interest which has been sadly lacking for several years.

Next step is to follow up with the Ministry on these points, and start the processes, we are fortunate to have the support of the Shooters and Fishers, and the Minister is happy to engage with us ongoing. Overall, an incredibly positive first meeting.

Simon Trippe, President of USFA NSW with Mel Brown AM, National Spearfishing Historian

Seventy Fifth Anniversary Celebration

Saturday 7th October

farewell Peter and may the fish rise to meet you

A big day of celebration and remembrance, where the morning saw 30 spearfishers gather on the shore of Camp Cove to celebrate the life of former USFA president Peter Saunders. People came from Queensland, Newcastle and the South Coast to remember our good friend Pete, memories about Pete and his antics, good and hilarious came out from the crowd. Alby Cooke from the Sea Lions set up a wonderful viking funeral where we walked through a corridor of saluting spearos and pushed a flaming cauldron out into the sea, cheers of “Hurrah” rang across the sea, it was a splendid start to a meaningful day.

The main event was held at the Sydney Game Fishing Club, Watson’s Bay, an excellent venue for the occassion. Speeches and recollections were given over the afternoon, highlights were the two gentleman John Wright and Kerry Heffernan who were actually present at the original meeting of spearfishers to form the USFA, 75 years earlier, they were 6 and 4 years old at the time. John could recall parts of that auspicious day, we were in awe. John and Eva Black, the only married couple to win the National Championships in the same year were in attendance, and it was great to hear Blacky regale the earlier decades of spearfishing. These memories from our elders have been passed on to the younger divers and so the stories and memories of our pioneers, as well as the importance of the Association, passes on for another generation.

Johhny Wright and Kerry Heffernan
Neville Price – Dolphins, Mick Arentz – Dragons, Russell Woods – Dolphins, Gunther Pfrengle – Dragons

I mentioned earlier this year about how and why the USFA was formed (https://usfa.org.au/happy-seventy-five-usfa/) and in the short speech I gave I specifically mentioned how the USFA of today still rings true to the actions desired of the original committe and members when forming the Underwater Spear Fishers Association, that being: Official recognition of “speargunners”; to educate the community about spearfishing; to stop safe access areas being denied to spearfishers; to enhance codes of conduct and safety; lastly, to enable those still to come to be able to spearfish in the coming decades.

Lucky winner Darren Higgins with Ray Powell of DiveR and President Simon Trippe

All in all a terrific day, enjoyed by all who attended. Too many people to thank, Annita from the Game Fishing Club, Rico for providing his amazing Paella, obviously the current USFA Committee – fantastic people all, particularly Mel Brown our National Spearfishing Historian for displaying an amazing array of Australian design and built spearfishing equipment. Thank you too for those who attended Peter’s farewell, and, the function. Too those who missed the day, well, I guess I shall see you all at the Centenary!

Oly Wady from Revesby Workers winning the Adreno prize – Ascension wetsuit. Pat Mullins and Craig Seadog

Sponsors! Thank you to our long term sponsors of USFA events – Adreno Spearfishing and Craig Seadog the Sydney store manager; Bob McComb of McComb spearguns; Ray Powell of DiveR; Manny Bova of Mannysub Roller spearguns.

McComb Speargun winner Lynton Howes of the Dolphins with former USFA President Bob McComb
Manny “Mannysub” Bova, Mel Brown National Spearfishing historian, Kerry Heffernan

Save the Date

Adreno Sydney Kingfish Cup

The Adreno Sydney Kingfish Cup is coming!

Spearos the dates this year are November the 11/12th – the second Weekend in November.  Other key dates are the awesome Information Session held at Adreno Sydney on Thursday 2nd November from 1800 (THE Spearfishing social event of the year) and of course the Presentation evening Thursday 16th November.  Details to come in a few weeks – Save these dates!

A Celebration of Life

Pete Saunders

A good friend to many of us and an outstanding advocate for spearfishing. Pete was always happy to help someone out.

On the morning of the 75th Anniversary of the USFA celebrations we are having a Viking send off for Pete. Details in the image below. Hope to see you there on the beach to honour Pete and afterwards at the Sydney Gamefishing Club to celebrate spearfishing and to a man who helped it thrive.