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

Loosing a mate to the sport you love

It wasn’t easy waking up to hear reports that a spearfisher had been struck by a boat back home. It was early one morning, while I was holidaying at Surfers Paradise QLD, when I heard on the radio that a spearfisher had been struck by a boat off the coast of Currarong on the NSW South Coast. I immediately woke to grab my phone and started the frantic calls to check if it was one of my dive buddies. Three out of Four answered their phone. One phone went through to message bank.

I hopped online, switched on the TV and started looking for information. An hour had passed and I still didn’t have a return call. I had a gut feeling that he was gone. FaceBook started to wake up and many posts started appearing in the online spearfishing fraternity trying desperately to find information. It was about half an hour later that I read on a mates wall “R.I.P” posted by a friend. It was now obvious to me, that the worse had happened to one of my good dive mates.

The day passed with many thoughts, mainly all the times that we went diving together and all the early morning calls that I would get, nagging me to go diving. Its only now that I am thankful that I did drag myself out of bed and go have a dive.

Months passed before I got back into the water. It was only then that I realised the dangers of diving. I had numerous close calls before with boats, but never really thought anything of it.
We were a drop in the ocean, I thought. We would have to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong 30cm x 30cm section of water, I thought. It would never happen to me or a mate, I thought. Oh how wrong I was.

Even though he was using a float and flag, was experienced and knew the area well, he still died.

At the time of writing, just over a year has passed. A day does not go by without the thought of a good mate passing away. I hope that this short life experience of mine at least gets one of you to use a float and flag, dive with a buddy and keep a damm good lookout.

I wish no one to go through the pain that I did. I wish that everyone in the ocean could work in harmony. Please keep the rules of diving at the forefront of every breath and dive safe.

King Fish Cup

THE KINGFISH CUP – A yearlong competition split into three geographical zones along the coast where each quarter divers submit photos and a 200 word story of their capture to the USFA.  All entries will be posted online on our website and on the USFA Facebook Page.  Great quarterly prizes and bragging rights will be up for grabs.  There will be a Kingfish Cup shirt with iron on transfers available for divers to record their catches on their shirts as bragging rights.  This is mainly aimed at the younger demographic who frequent the social media and aims to create friendly competition and all round traffic to the website.

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The spin offs for this will be the exposure the website and Facebook sites gain and the follow on quality information and resources we can then offer from that same site.  It will also tie in with the sponsorship with the traffic justifying the support from suppliers for prizes.  Long term archives will be created full of photos and stories which will in themselves be a drawcard to the site as the entries grow.  This is just a brief overview, but we are not far off having everything in place for this program to go live!



Sambas and Blackouts

Shallow water blackout is a loss of consciousness caused by cerebral hypoxia towards the end of a breath-hold dive in water typically shallower than five metres (16 feet), when the swimmer does not necessarily experience an urgent need to breathe and has no other obvious medical condition that might have caused it. It can be caused by taking several very deep breaths, or hyperventilating, just before a dive. Victims are often established practitioners of breath-hold diving, are fit, strong swimmers, and have not experienced problems before.

Samba is a loss of motor control. It is a partial loss of physical or mental integrity and generally occurs up to 15 seconds after reaching the surface, normally during your first breath after a dive. It happens due to not having enough oxygen in your brain.

Watch this video on Sambas and Blackouts by Erez Beatus an AIDA Freediving Instructor and Judge, Former Freediving Coach for Israel and Former Freediving World Record Holder.

Thankyou and credit to the North Shore Underwater Club and Erez for this essential and valuable safety video.

History of the Skindivers Magazine

In February of 1951 the Underwater Spear Fishermen’s Association (USFA) produced its first magazine, “Spearfishing News”. With USFA secretary Jim Ferguson as editor this publication consisted initially of 6 typewritten pages. Produced monthly it contained hints on spearfishing and equipment, information on rules, monthly and committee meetings, clubs, trophies and a Man of the Month section.

Spearfishing News continued being produced by the committee every month until September of 1952 when it first appeared as a commercial publication of 24 A5 pages. After the first 2 issues, Jim Ferguson wasn’t happy with the new format and reverted to a roneo’d publication for the November issue.

At the November committee meeting of the USFA Jim Ferguson was requested to outline his plan for the future of the magazine. As the committee wished to continue with a commercially printed publication Jim Ferguson resigned and a magazine committee consisting of Edward Du Cros (Editor), Keith Vagg (Associate Editor ) and Jeff Jackson (Advertising) was elected with their first issue being in December of 1952 and with a cover price of one shilling.

In July of 1953 the magazine finances were investigated and found to be chaotic. Over a period of 8 issues the magazine had suffered an average loss of 52 pounds per issue with the June issue recording the largest loss of 76 pounds with a net cost of One shilling five and a half pence per issue. It was recommended that the sale of magazines to shops at 9 pence each be discontinued. It was also recommended that drastic measures be taken to remedy the losses immediately as the financial future of the association was in jeopardy.

In September of 1953 Secretary, Dick Barton reported on the reaching of satisfactory financial arrangements and the production of the September issue with a name change to the Australian Skin Diving & Spearfishing Digest and in November of 1953, Keith Vagg took the reins of Editor.

Producing the magazine continued to be a struggle and in July 1954, the production and Editorial role for the magazine passed to Phil Knightly. Unfortunately, this did not work out and in November 1954 he was replaced with Richard Dreyfus, who worked in the Mirror office. Richard Dreyfus was empowered to produce the magazine on the USFA’s behalf on the same conditions as agreed to with Phil Knightly.

Australian Skindiving and Spearfishing Digest 1958 November
Australian Skindiving and Spearfishing Digest 1958 November

By January of 1955, it was reported that the handling of the magazine was unsatisfactory and the services of Mr Dreyfus were dispensed with. An endeavour will be made to obtain the services of some other interested person in the spearfishing world. The Feb-March 1955 issue was produced by Dick Barton as temporary editor until September of 1955 when Ray Cooper became the editor. In August 1956 John Thompson as the USFA’s Business Manager took on the task of producing the magazine,  until October of 1960 when H.R.Smith & Biro with Bob Smith as Editor produced the magazine for the USFA.

Once again this commercial agreement did not work out and in March of 1961 the USFA again resumed control with a new editor and a new name. With Jack Evans as editor and the title, Australian Skindivers magazine production ran smoothly under his stewardship until he reluctantly relinquished his position as editor due to overseas commitments. Jack Evans last magazine was the June/July 1969 issue.

Australian Skindivers Magazine 1969 – July-August – First cover in colour

John Gillies was then appointed editor with the July/August 1969 his first issue and also a first for the ASM, a coloured front cover. However, by July of 1970, a financial storm was gathering. As always finances were very tight and with the production of Australia’s first commercial magazine in the offing, advertisers became reluctant to pay. The USFA was then in the position of not being able to pay the printers for the release of the June/July 1970 issue.

Australian Skindivers 1970 Vol 20 No 6 June,July - Final Edition
Australian Skindivers 1970 Vol 20 No 6 June,July – Final Edition

In July of 1970 Skindiving in Australia hit the newsstands and advertising support for ASM completely dried up. Meanwhile, payments owing from advertisers were pursued and several months later enough money was in the kitty for the release and circulation of ASM’s final issue. The irony of the situation was such that if advertisers had met their commitments and paid their accounts on time, ASM would have continued.

I had joined the USFA in 1962 as an 18-year-old youth and recall how eagerly I awaited each monthly issue of ASM. With regular contributions by Ben Cropp, Ron & Val Taylor, Wal Gibbins, John Harding and a host of others, I would dream of being able to take part in similar adventures.

In December of 1970 “Fathom” magazine appeared in newsagent’s stands. Produced by Gareth Powell with John Harding as Editor and Roy Bisson in charge of design,  Fathom set new standards in production and design and continued for 10 issues until early 1973.

The USFA continued to pursue its own publications. In 1972 Norm Leibick produced several issues of a USFA Newsletter followed by Bill Suters reverting to the ASM name, producing several typewritten issues with the USFA’s Gestetner printer.

In May of 1974 Merv Sheehan began producing Skindiving News from the Metropolitan Zone and with its adoption by the state became Skindiving News from the NSW Zone with its Jan/Feb. 1979 issue with a name change to The NSW Skindiver with the July/August 1988 issue with the final issue in June 1998.

With Shane Spicer as Publicity Officer, several issues of Scale Tales were produced with issue 1 appearing in 1999 and issue 4 in December 2000. Then with Merv Sheehan as Editor and Adrian Wayne supplying the facilities of Waycon Pty. Ltd. The Underwater Fishing and Free Diving Magazine was produced for three issues between December 2001 and Feb. 2003. In March 2004 Oliver Wady as editor and Adrian Wayne’s staff at Waycon produced Spearfishing, Free Diving and Film Fishing News.

With this issue of “Australian Skindivers Magazine” we enter an exciting new era of production of a news magazine for our membership. With everyone’s help, long may it continue.

We have scanned over fifty editions of Skindivers Magazines from the 50’s and up. If you have one we don’t please share it with us.

A Practical Approach to Conservation through the Sustainable Use of Wildlife

Speech Transcript – Keynote Speaker

Bob McComb, Chairman, the Adventure and Safari Association of NSW

USFA Event – 7 May 2009

Good evening everyone, thank you all for coming tonight. Many of you already know me. For those who don’t, I started spearfishing 35 years ago and joined my first hunting club at the same time. I fished the Alliman Shield for 16 years and whilst I was never a successful comp diver, I managed to fluke a few good fish along the way. Fifteen years ago I was involved with the foundation of a recreational fishing lobby group, Angler’s Action group and have been elected to the committee since.

Currently I have been honoured by being selected as a mentor for the Future Leaders program for the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

Tonight I will be talking about conservation. However I am not a biologist, except in the practical sense. I own a deer farm and practice Game Management on several properties. The hat that I am wearing tonight, or should I say, the khaki shirt and pants, is as the Chairman for the Adventure and Safari Industry Association of New South Wales, an organisation which you will no doubt hear a lot more about in the coming months and years. Continue reading A Practical Approach to Conservation through the Sustainable Use of Wildlife