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Competitive Spearfishing - Ethics or Pathetics??

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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icarus pacific

Nov 7, 2001
Taking a cue from other threads here, and from more than a few concerned e-mails, I've decided to broach this, sure to be tender, topic. (You know me, always looking for a pissing contest :hmm )

One of our members here in DB Land, sturgeon, himself a competitive spearfisher recently announced to the World that which has been known for years in the sport, that the feeding of fish to promote them sticking around for the actual competition is regularly practiced. As a former competitor, I'll recognize that fact and tell you that that ain't even the half of the crap that goes on at this level of the, (cough, sputter), sport. Those are some of the reasons I left and decline to compete to this day, though I am an avowed practioner of the art of spearfishing.

It's my educated and experienced opinion that there's no need for spearfishing competitions as they are run today.

I maintain that the ability of a spearfisherperson to suit up, head off into the surf and come back with a catch, without months of scouting, feeding, spying and politics, is the truer measure of that person's skill. And it's a hell of lot better for the immediate ecology of the area.

The Nationals held in Central California's Carmel a few months back is both the most recent and glaring example of a sport run amok and feeding on itself to the detriment of us all. 50 divers from both ends of the US entered the water with a good year's worth of time being able to scout and map the area using both tried and true landmark recognition and GPS, and often using, gasp! , SCUBA. That flies in the face of what a couple members here, Scott included, condemn, but in practice, are OK with, to locate the fish prior to the comp? :confused: What?, they just didn't give you a map?

Along with that, and this gets to the heart of the matter for me, (as I've been fortunate enough to be able to dive at that location a lot over 30 years and still do,) I want to know where the divers get off being able to have double the catch allowed the ordinary person with a license. And while I'm waiting for that answer, those divers that shot over the allowed number of total and per species, were they cited, as that normal person would be? And the real biggy for me- you're not going to tell me that fifty divers can go into an area, shoot double the daily allowed catch and not have it affect the area, and I don't care if it's three miles by three miles or five by five... That's the epitome of the hypocracy being touted by these contestants. "We can choose and pick our catch". Yeah, and we can map them, bait them, train them and shoot twice as many too. Yeah. Good for the sport.

In your photo on the Spearfishing Photos thread Scott, you proudly hold up your catch and a couple of good lings they are. But the other mitt is holding up fish that not only do the locals not target, they throw back if caught by hook! Hell, I call them bait!! You're going to tell me that it's OK to shoot these species just because the Fish and Game says it's OK and that you'll get points for it to boot?? There's not enough meat on 'em to warrant shooting them!! Not to mention, you ever taste rubberlip Perch?! :yack

You can correctly tell the masses here that the fillets went to local charities and all, and that's fine. But do you have any idea of how long the area is going to take to recover??

Then you go off and really jam it... These fish are stupid? What's that make the divers that shoot them?rofl Hey if the only difficulty is finding them, why aren't all the divers pictured holding bigger, HUGE ling cod, including you? I'll be very happy to put it all on the table and tell you that with a couple of exceptions, a visiting diver, rolling out of the car and never having seen or dove the place before, won't find a lingcod of legal size, even guarding it's nest of eggs. OH! Was there any mention of these fish possibly being on nests in the GPS logs? :head Hope those points are worth it. You can care less not being able to enjoy the area after you leave...

Paul Vervenitois, himself a competitor, (6th overall, 1st Team) wrote in this latest issue of Hawaiian Skin Diver that, " Only in this way will our sport be able to survive at a National level."

This circus and it's pompous, self entitiled, hypocritical participants
make me puke :yack and give me reassurance that I did the right thing to leave when I did in 1979. That it continues and has lowered even it's bottom dwelling standards to the level it is further sickens me.

Lob all the - Karma you want, but have some class and sign it. My decision to call this issue out at my and others behest will be reward enough.

CenCal Competitior 1974-1979
DB Competition guru
Proud holder of DB Karma :king
Originally posted by icarus pacific

Lob all the - Karma you want, but have some class and sign it.

Yeah ,right ...:hmm
I recently suffered a karmic collapse :D at the hands of an anonymous , but heavy karmic coefficient wielder (kinda narrows the field) for lacking proper humility in expressing my personal view . Hey , I never claimed to be smooth ...rofl
My opinion on SOME Riffe users (which you supported , Sven ) ,apparently were not universally appreciated .;) Hence the new handle .
Anyway , it took me two competitions to draw the same conclusion as you regarding the detrimental impact on the local ecosystem . Even without the intense scouting and still unbelievable feeding practices the quality and quantity of fish taken on open competitions is sickening .
I do still occasionally participate in comps for pelagics , but the regular regulations vis. bag limits apply : 10 fish max. , 2 per species , with a reasonable minimum weight per species .

Just want to add that I know it wasn't Sven . For one my karma would probably have gone into the nethermost negative regions :D , for another his views on anonymity are well known .
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Parallel thought.

Im yet to formulate an opinion on this and even decide whether i would do it myself, but as i read Sven's post i could not help but draw a parallel in my mind of 50 ( teams?) of extremely proficient professional hunters ( rifle) on a designated day, all entering a demarcated area and each shooting up to two of each of the game found there.

As i write this, I only just allow my mind to extend to the far reaches of incredulity where for the previous year they would have intentionally fed 'their' buck and marked their sleeping and watering spots with GPS.

This does not fall under the hunting category for me.
And i'm certain that it eludes any attempt to tag it as 'sporting' for anyone.

Its closer to farming and harvesting.

Semantically yours

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Is this a "green light" for shooting plywood target board ???:D :D
Thank u, thank u......

Abri, my.... my..... who would bombed ur Karma ? I got bombed negative twice, but hey, so what, everyone can do what they like, I don't care. I think we must learn to be smoother...:eek: :eek:

I never been in a comp, have no apnea skill to compete in such. I think some comps are very strict in terms of conservation, I don't know which one though, but read somewhere.

As for feeding a fish before or during a comp only to shoot it later, I guess that's a bit too violent for me. Not the feeding part but the fact that a fish can be that CLOSE to me to get fed will generate pity in the first place. Does chumming come under this catagory ???

I have to admit I have dreams of shooting big Tunas......Yummy Yummy
The usual dilemma : I guess it boils down to what you find personally acceptable .
As an example , I frequently use a flasher when hunting ; this attracts fish that I might not otherwise be able to spear . Maybe not as extreme as feeding reefies , but to some extent the same principle . Some spearo's might consider that an unacceptable advantage .
Regarding the issue of competitions though , IMHO better , ecologically sound regulations should be applied .
Perhaps local spearo's in a designated competition area could be consulted regarding species that are to be alowed ?:confused:
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well put!

Very interesting perspective. As I read the last episode of HSD I had many similar thoughts. I predict a barrage of negative feedback however. It might just come in the form of readers grumbling under their breath but that is because they simply have their hand in the pie and nobody wants to believe what they are doing could possibly be wrong.
I think the current trend or paradigm is absurd. The climax of a spearfisherman's career is to have his picture taken next to a fish twice his size and be able to ramble on about how he had to fight it for two hours before nearly collapsing from exhaustion. There is too much machismo and technology involved in spearfishing today and unfortunately the next generation will have to pay the price.
Fish to eat not to defeat!
- Miguelito
Technology........??? Must be the laser sight we been talking about.....Fish Seeking Shaft ??:eek: :eek:
Let me clarify some points Sven made about the recent N. CA Nationals. First off, I don't have any idea what he's talking about double the legally allowed catch. All current CA Fish and Game laws applied to this competition and then some. We had minimum size limits and catch restrictions way above normal regulations for most species. We even had size limits for fish that CA has no size limits for. In fact, in the picture Sven has so proudly posted on the Spearfishing Photos thread, some of his catch would be illegal for the 2002 Nationals. BTW, it looks like those fish were shot on SCUBA by the type of stringer he's using.

It also makes no sense biologically to chastise killing a certain species of fish that normally has absolutely zero pressure on it for a day and then say "how long will it take to recover?" If there is no take of that species ever, then obviously recovery is eminent. I also don't understand Sven's re-iteration of how hard N. CA fish are to find (wasn't that my point?). Maybe the reason myself and other divers didn't have bigger lings this year was because we didn't use tanks to scout!!!! Some of us don't agree with this practice or of feeding fish prior to a tournament. You heard me right, I wouldn't use legally accepted practices to win a tournament if I didn't feel morally right about it. Imagine that, I wouldn't put a tank on my back even if it meant winning a National Championship.

Talk about a divided front. I don't mind people bad mouthing the sport I love so much because everybody's entitled to their opinion. But please, if you're going to do it at least get your facts strait.

Scott T.
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My 2 cents

One has to agree that to place a bunch of skilled spearos in a relatively small area for the sake of a competition where the primary species taken for the comp remain in the same very small area won't have positive results for the fish population:(

Sven, what I don't understand is your attack on Scott T. :duh I read an article in Hawaii Skin Diver on the competition that you are referring to and if memory serves, the guys who were employing all of the tactics that you dislike, "with good reason" were for the most part local boys. Maybe you should chat with them face to face:blackeye I'm fairly new to spearfishing but I have to admit I was surprized to read that some of the competitors were scouting/charting a year in advance. I completely agree that it seems to end up more a test of who has more free time and access to the competition location. Might be a better test of skill if the comp. organizers announce the location of the comp. plus or minus 50 miles the year prior and then give the exact location a week max before the meet. (just a thought):confused:

My opinion, Guy
You're correct IB that both teams local and visiting were allowed to and used SCUBA to aid in their mapping of the area. And as Scott pointed out here in the threads, both teams used the practice of feeding to ensure that the fish would be there on game day.

I'm not going after Scott per se, though he has the penchant for taking things personally and then slinging mud before his BP settles and rational thought kicks back in. I suffer the same malady from time to time. This relationship harkens back to what was supposed to be a dialogue on the correctness of scantily clad ladies being used to promote dive gear, and degenerated to a defense of only having Bachelors Degrees, still something from which several of us here laugh about. You'll note Scott's wry dig at the size of my catch in the Spearfishing Photos thread- something wholly unecessary. (editors note- the fish are all over the DF&G size restrictions, were shot breathhold, weren't scouted and if you ever see a canary and a boccaccio that size, you shoot it, slather on the butter, garlic and lemon and chow down!) You'll also get to recall that my opinion of spearing fish using SCUBA was snubbed by the same Scott. I can't tell you how much sleep I lost...

My point(s) is this... if a competitor, be he Scott, myself, you, whoever, sees something going on, like feeding, and knows that it's morally wrong, and doesn't call it to the attention of the regulating body, and then still chooses to compete, then that person is condoning the practice and is no better off than the rest. When that person then advertises his mastery, then it's open season. And yes IB, I've chatted over the years with the divers, several of whom I have known, dove with and continue to count as friends about this and most just shrug, wish I was still involved and go on their way. No prob. I'm speaking again from a position of having been there, not outta my ass.

To Scott's questions, the daily take in CA is 20 fish, 10 of which can be rockfish in a combination, and there's one of the examples of the hypocracy- several of the fish you show as do those in the publications, show more than the ten rockfish and as stated in the article in Hawaii Skin Diver, a couple divers were DQ'd for being over the total and specie limit. I don't know who greased the palms of the State, but if I did that, I'd be ponying -up a $500 bill for the fine. I don't imagine the offending divers donated same to the cause? And your argument that even though the resource had no pressure on it that day means it's OK to send fifty people in after them is laughable. Locals and ex Nationals champs alike know that the large ling cod are considered "breeders", they are most often seen nesting and contribute to the continuation of the resource. To send in the troops and nail 30+ of the breedstock isn't helping the ecology, to say nothing of just shooting the freeswimming rockfish and perch for points and because, "well, the book say's it's OK..."

And as to your other jab about my fish stringer, Scott - the comp style cable stringers never appealed to me and often ended up in my straps, so I use a "clothes pin" style, and hang it off my float. Easy, definite and in use by a lot of other locals in the know. But you knew that.

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Actually, I only had 9 rockfish on my stringer and the Nationals min size limit was 14 inches. CA doesn't have a min size limit for rockfish or perch. I doubt that baby red you have on the end of your stringer meets the 14 inch self-imposed min size limit for this year's Nationals. It's not much bigger than your hand. I didn't say anything about lingcod, you referenced perch as a fish nobody harvests and then asked how could they recover. I agree that the lings took a beating but I didn't think that was your original point. But keep in mind, some divers had as many as 10 lings each scouted but only took 2. I personally had 4 nice ones and only shot 2. So, I would say there's still a few left.

As far as using your type of stringer and dragging it on your float, I've never seen a freediver do either. It must be a real pain in the ass going though all that kelp, especially with fish on it.

It's nice that you've "been there" but that was almost 25 years ago and only for 5 years. Maybe times have changed since then.

Half the divers disqualified at the Nationals was because of coming in late. The other half (3), thanks to Terry Maas, were spared insult to injury by his kindness of removing the illegal fish prior to them making it to the end of the table where Game and Fish was stationed.

BTW, not a single competitor at the 2002 CA Nationals weighed in a maximum limit of 20 fish. One Hawaiian diver did come in with 21 but was promptly DQ'd.

Scott T.
to sling or not to sling...

sven, i'll throw you a :ycard on the venting, but also a :inlove on the fact that you had the kahones to stand up and call this as it is.

scott, i've spoken w/ you many times personally and i can see your passion/intensity for this sport. i can also see that your qwest for $/benefits/free gear from this just kills some of us. yes, you are very talented in what you do, but your name in a record book or on top of a leader list does not make you a better person here among us.

as for competitions, aquiles and i participated in 1 and came in on top. i felt like shit for weeks after. killing fish for food is one thing, but killing fish just to brag or boast is the most pathetic thing i've ever heard of. if i kill it, i'm sure as hell going to clean it(well maybe jay will :D ).

i don't see how our community will ever be able to put up a strong voice against the legislature if the ethics in the sport continue as they are. just remember, it'll be the greedy attitudes that kill it for the rest of us. mark my words on that one. :(

I compete in freedive spearfishing because I enjoy it and not because I get paid for it. I've competed in sports my entire life (age 10 on) and I certainly never got paid for any of them. I don't know how you think I compete for money.

As far as competitions go, no competitions equal no sport. It becomes only a recreational activity. But right now I can't think of a single recreational activity that is not a sport (even walking is competitive). Keep in mind, no sport, no sponsorships, no gear manufacture companies, no nothing! Why do you think all the freediving companies are from Europe? Because freediving is big business and big money over there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've heard a local competition in France can produce over 250 competitors. You guys may think freedive spearfishing competitions are the most disgusting things on the face of this planet but if it wasn't for them, you wouldn't be freedive spearfishermen. All of our USA idols were once competitive spearfisherman. Terry Maas, John Ernst, Jay Riffe, Art Pinder, Wally Potts, ect. we have them and only them to thank for the purveyance of our sport in this Country!!!!!!! Some of you guys on this Forum absolutely amaze me. It's not even worth my time or aggravation to post anything on here anymore. This Forum is not for me.


Please unsubscribe me. Thank you.

Scott T.
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OK - so the outsider slides one in....

I see a lot of posts here condeming (it seems) the practice of Comp hunting on the grounds that hunting food vs sport. Now I've never entered a "big" spearo Comp, but all the small ones i've been in were mainly an excuse to have big fish fry/beach party. trust me I was eating Hamour nuggets for months, nothing gets wasted. IS this not practice for most of the contestants? Is comps not only a practice of seeing who's on top, but also a way to showcase new equipment/techniques? it was very much a social fuction for us - very sight motivation on the actual winner.

The Breeding stock arguement is the same reason why we don't shoot big Hamour in the Gulf - we want more next year. Ok, ok, we usually take one big one during New years, but thats just tradition, and acompanies a massive BBQ.

Sven - the safetypin style stringer is the only one I use - no Idea how some spearo's deal with all the $%$% tangles, and my fish have gill plates that will work through mono. I attach mine to a surface float as well.

just my 2cents - there are now two of us for a canadian spearfishing group - hopefully we'll see you guys at a comp one day - I wish to see these "stupid fish" that I'm hearing so much about - never met any before....

A non-spearos take

Scott T.,

I hope you reconsider and stay on board with us here. I think that there is room for differing opinions and I know I have enjoyed reading your posts (as well as meeting and diving with you).

It would be a loss not to have you as a member (IMHO).

It is pretty sad to see how this thread has deteriorated pretty rapidly.
Spearfishing competetions have been around for ages and if held properly, it is a great experience both for organizers and athletes alike. When there are certain things we don't like or approve of (e.g. feeding fish or using SCUBA to scout), it does not mean that the whole concept is wrong. Freedive spearfishing is an activity that very few practice in this country. It has been and is a fledgling sport. I am almost positive that there are more spearfishermen in Greece (10million) than the U.S.(300million). And trust me, there are still plently of good fish left in the Med. We are our own worst enemies. Why feel terrible if you spear some good fish that you or somebody else will ejnoy eating? We all know that if spearfishing (including competetions) is done properly, it is one of the most sustainable forms of fishing (we do not take fish indiscriminantly, and only take what we need).
If we don't agree between ourselves, how do we expect outsiders to understand what we are all about?
As far as regulations and limits are concerned, I am not familiar with West Coast sizes and limits but I know here in Florida, state law restricts a lot more species for spearing than for regular recreational hook and line fishing. If you can catch them by hook, why not by spear? Pretty soon, spearfishing is going to become an illegal activity and (in many ways) we will not have anybody else to blame but ourselves.

I agree with Frogman compleatly. Just look @ what has happend to Hunting in canada! now, I'm not a terestrial based hunter per-sey, but I do belive that bad press can KILL a sport like spearfishing, one that is practiced by so few, but that is also a way of life for many of us.

I think that by making certain practices "socialy" unacceptable we will slowly weed out some of the bad press coming out of this sport.

oh, before you go...

leave the ball. :D

Seriously though, the flaw in that thinking, that competitive spearfishing made me want to spear fish, ain't it, and that you think so is going to make your seeing my take on this all that much harder. I spear fish recreationally now, did it competitively back when the Earth was cooling, thanks and did it for a means of income, too.

My original point that evidently got lost in the fray is, that the way the competitions are held TODAY, (look at the original thread), is not in competitive diving's best interests, as seen by the very public that is able and desirous to support it. After Terry, the Bill's and Wally, (and I'll give us both a terrific ego boost here), you and I, are done and quit, there won't be enough interested or able individuals left to to the sport a quality justice. The same people that gave up guns for bows, won't be here for diving. There aren't any more avenues.

I'm not here to crucify you, that's up to the members and public at large. But your Karma going into the tank is a reflection more on your wanting to be the poster child of a sport that in their mind's eye, ain't gettin' it, as far as the ethics you condemn. And then going after my credentials as a way of justification just throws the dirt on top of the hole.

I'll go waaay out on a limb here and say that the members here would have been much more receptive to your telling the governing body of the competitions, CenCal, USofA, etc, that based on your touted morals that you won't be participating until such time as they get their act together and make the comps actually a reflection of the divers skill, at that time and place. But what it looks like, and it's not a slam, is that the trophy and bragging rights take center stage. And that's the bummer.

Stick around if you want; there's going to be a pretty decent Caption Contest here in a couple days.

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