Dept of Primary Industries Spear fishing flyer – Shark Beach, Nielsen Park, Sydney Harbor

Hi Executive, Delegates and Members,

Please find attached a flyer developed by the Department of Primary Industries, Recreational Fisheries Management Team following complaints about spearfishing at Shark Beach, Nielsen Park.

In an email to the USFA, Fisheries Manager, Jim Harnwell states,
“We are proposing to provide copies of the flier to National Parks rangers to distribute to spearfishers and members of the public.

The aim of the flier is to remind spearfishers about appropriate behaviour etc but also inform the public that spearfishing is a safe and legitimate sport which is allowed at this location.

This will hopefully help reduce conflict as it seems some members of the public are unaware that spearfishing is a legal activity at this location.”

Copies of the flyer will also be distributed to Sydney Compliance Officers as well as to the USFA.

This is a great initiative by DPI on behalf of Spearfishers.  The USFA are very grateful for their efforts and  have welcomed the opportunity to be part of this process to further advocate for the rights of NSW Spearfishers.

Please distribute to your members and other interested parties.
NSW DPI – Going spearfishing.pdf

Kind regards

Peter Walsh
USFA Secretary

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

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 Insurance Policy Summary

Personal Accident Policy

Where am I covered?

Policy coverage is worldwide.

When am I covered?

Three scenarios for coverage:

  1.  Whilst participating in events arranged by the USFA. (i.e. scheduled competitions or awards nights etc.).
  2. Whilst participating in events not arranged by the USFA provided two or more members participate and all rules and regulations are followed. (i.e. social dives, pool training with a buddy – wet and dry static and dynamic activities).
  3. Voluntary work arranged by the USFA.

Breach of Maritime, Fisheries or USFA rules or any illegal activity voids the cover under scenario 2.

How much am I covered for?

Weekly Benefits

  • 80% of your average Gross weekly income up to a maximum of $500 per week.
  • Payable for up to 104 weeks (2 years) or until age limitations are reached.
  • Commence after the first 7 days in the event of an injury.

Lump Sum

  • $50,000 or a percentage thereof as per Schedule of Compensation Table.
  • Members under the age of 16 or between 65 and 75 years have a “Lump Sum” limit of $10,000.

Other Benefits:

  • Funeral Expenses – 100% of costs to a maximum $10, 000.
  • Non Medicare Medical Expenses – 100% of costs to a maximum of $5,000. Nil excess.
    • Medicare Expenses (including the Gap) cannot be claimed under this policy, as it is unlawful to do so. Only non-Medicare expenses can be claimed.
  • Parents’ Inconvenience Allowance – Up to $25 per day up to a maximum of $2,000.
  • Emergency Transport Allowance – 100% of expenses up to a maximum of $5,000 from within Commonwealth waters i.e. Rescue Helicopter, ambulance etc.
  • Modification Benefit – If a payment is made under the Lump Sum Benefits, the costs to modify the insured’s vehicle, home or relocating them to a suitable home will be covered up to a maximum of $10,000. Prior written agreement required.
  • Rehabilitation Expenses – If payments are made under the Weekly Benefits cover, the costs for participation in any return to work program deemed reasonable will be covered up a maximum of $5,000.

Benefits For Non Income Earners & Students:

  • Household Help Benefits – includes, Domestic Home Help, Hire of Medical Aids (Non-Income Earners Only) – 100% to $200 per week for a maximum period of 104 weeks.
  • Student Assistance Benefits (Non-Income Earners Only) – 100% to $250 per week for a maximum period of 104 weeks. Waiting period 7 days
  • Unemployed/Pensioner/Self-Funded Retiree Assistance – For attendance at medical consultations 100% of expenses up to a maximum of $5,000.

Example Scenario:

A USFA member is spearfishing in the Coral Sea, or anywhere within Commonwealth waters, aboard a spearfishing charter or private vessel with one or more other USFA members and receives an injury (covered under the scope of the policy wording), such as shark attack or hit by a boat, requiring hospital treatment.

Insurance cover will pay for all costs up to $5000 to transport the insured to hospital. The insured is then covered for up to $5000 in costs for Non-Medicare Medical Expenses, up to $5000 Rehabilitation Expenses, up to $10000 Modification Benefits if required and with prior approval. They are also entitled to a Weekly Benefit of up to 80% of their Gross weekly income (max $500/week – 17 to 60 yrs.) for up to 104 weeks after a 7 day waiting period from time of injury. They are also eligible for a Lump Sum Payment in accordance with the Schedule of Compensation Table depending on the allocated injury percentage of up to $50,000.

This is only a summary of the USFA cover, for full details you should read the policy documents in full. The policy documents may be downloaded and viewed on our web site.

The policies are:

  1. Worldwide Group Personal Accident Insurance which covers members up to 75 years of age whilst participating in events organised by the insured and non scheduled events provided 2 or more members participate and all rules and regulations are followed, including voluntary work on behalf of the insured (refer to following summary of cover, the Group Personal Accident Policy Wording PDF and the Group Personal Accident Capital and Additional Benefit Tables PDF for details of cover).
  2. Public and Products Liability including Advertising Liability Policy covering the USFA and affiliated clubs and members (refer to following coverage summary and Liability Policy Wording PDF.

Please refer to the Policy Wordings which are downloadable from the links below.
USFA Insurance Summary Verified – Feb 2015.pdf


To all USFA members and prospective members:

The USFA is pleased to announce that we have updated the insurance policies covering our members and Office Bearers.

Member concerns on extent and quality of coverage have been listened to and considerable effort went into sourcing what can be described as the “Broadest and most comprehensive coverage for Spearfishers and Snorkelers ever seen in Australia”.

Of particular note is the Group Personal Accident Coverage which now covers members subject to age limits ANYTIME they dive WORLDWIDE as per below:

This means we are now able to offer better value for membership through very real insurance coverage to social and non-competition divers as well as our clubs and competition divers. Previously, there was no insurance coverage for members if they were not participating in a sanctioned event or competition. This lack of coverage for social, independent, younger or older members who were not interested in or able to compete has now been addressed.

We have arranged, along with many other benefits, income protection up to $500 per week for 104 weeks after a waiting period of just 7 days subject to policy conditions.

This is very real coverage which will benefit the majority of our members.
More specific details are to come soon and will be distributed.

The USFA are very excited and proud to offer these improvements to their members.

Dive Safe
Peter Walsh

USFA Vice President