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Please help make Tuna spearing legal in the U.S.

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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New Member
Aug 19, 2002
Please help make Tuna spearing legal in the U.S.!

Rig is probably too busy chartering and getting ready for the Hell Divers Rodeo so I will help him spread this. Here is the message he posted from Matt 'Catfish' Richards on another board, and my response.
Hello Tribe,

Now is the time to act! For all of the freedivers out there who don't
think it's fair that every technique to take Tuna is allowed EXCEPT
SPEARFISHING, now is your chance to make a difference! I heard from a buddy inside the NMFS (who helps set regs) that this will be our ONE AND ONLY shot to make a difference to overturn the spearfishing ban on Tuna for a very long while, could be many years. Time to speak up and be heard or NOTHING will happen in our favor. If you think you'll leave it up to 'the other guys' to make it happen, you may as well forget your chance at a Tuna (legally). Go to this link http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/Am...O_FaxNotice.pdf and download the PDF file. In it is information about Amendment 2 and how we should contact the NMFS with our dismay about spearfisherman being left out with regard to fishing for Tuna. Our money for a permit is just as good as everyone else's! Spearfisherman will take much fewer Tuna than a 'head boat' a 'weekend charter', nets, and long liners, why can't we fish too! The answer is WE WILL if we only take the time to send them a note saying we want to be heard too. This is the first step towards being heard, the next is the public meetings. From what I'm told, we may not even have to show up for the meetings IF there is enough 'noise' heard with an outpouring support for Amendment 2 of public. Though our chances are MUCH better if people show up to the meeting, we HAVE to send in faxes, e-mail or letters letting them know we are 'Pro amendment 2' , or it will not even be available for a vote when the time comes.

IF you do not fell compelled to fight for your spearing rights, by all means feel free to forward this e-mail to ANYONE who you think might take a brief moment to send the NMFS a note. Why should virtually everyone else get to take Tuna by any method they desire and we spearfisherman be left out in the cold?

Thank you for reading this,

Matt 'Catfish' Richards
South Kingstown, RI
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I found the paper. But save yourself the trouble and read the one sentence of the 59-page document that relates to spearfishing. It says: “Freedivers have requested the use of spearguns in HMS fisheries”.

This is what I am faxing to the NOAA:

“Dear NOAA,
I wish to voice my support of allowing use of spearguns by freedivers in HMS fisheries. The act of spearing a tuna is considered one the ultimate accomplishments for a freediver. The challenge of location, ability to hold breath, correct equipment, and having the fish swim within 18 feet of the diver makes success difficult. One fish taken in several days of diving is considered good success. Harvest quotas will not be very effected by this method, but it will be highly prized and self rewarding for the few divers able to spear one of these fish.

Freedive spearfishing of HMS fish has been going on for many years on both coasts of the United States. The legality has been ignored, but we wish to be law-abiding citizens and have spearguns added to the list of legal harvest methods.


Don Moore
South Texas Freediving Association”

Here are the fax numbers:
Headquarters Office (301) 713-1917

NMFS Southeast Regional Permit Office (727) 570-5583

NMFS Northeast Regional Permit Office (978) 281-9366

A list of the meetings is at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/Amendment2/extension_fax_notice.pdf They are going on right now so look quickly. I will go to the Port Aransas, TX meeting on June 24, 2004
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I commend this initiative and the course of action pursued. Although fairly just, most rights appertaining to freediving and spearfishing, including the right to spear tuna, have to be actively claimed by spearos, rather than expected to be automatically embodied in the legislation. This IMO occurs for two reasons:

Firstly, legislation (both state and federal) is drawn and enacted by individuals who are ignorant about spearfishing, marine life, or biological impact to the environment. Often the statute is archaic surviving in present law either due to past considerations, when spearfishing was uncommon, or because they simply cant be asked to put it on the agenda for amendment.

Secondly, commercial fishing industry has a very influential lobby with government. They form a distinct part of the economy and as a recognised occupational trade through labour unions, regulatory committees etc. exercise pressure on government mechanisms affecting relevant legislation. On a more cynical note, it also contains more voting leverage, which could act as a deterrent to government in an effort to avoid potential grievances afforded by an ammendment in the current legislation.

Bottom line is that unfortunately the public interest to safeguard the commercial fishing industry from "threats" (be they real or perceived) for the grounds outlined above, outweighs public interest to validate any claim raised by "hobbyist spearos". This IMO is the predominat mentality that you guys are up against, and became evident to myself after being informed of the total ban in Florida on lobster harvesting by freedivers.

I wish you the best of luck for the upcoming meetings and lucidity of mind to make the best possible arguments for your spearfishing community.

Tuna Enthusiast

Just a stupid question: Don't you need deep water to catch tuna and therefore will already be outside of the US territorial waters?
I'm sure that there's something that forbids it still, I'm just wondering on what grounds it stands, since I was expecting international law to regulate fishing there...
I think I heard somewhere that the US claims territoriality quite far out of the land, more than most countries, is it true?
Hello Michael

Here is how it goes. US sovereign territorial waters extend 12 miles from shore.

This defines the US sovereign territory where US law is applicable and enforceable however (as usual) there is a catch...Since the 50's US has claimed a 200 mile economic (fisheries) zone, where it preserves the right of exclusive exploitation of marine and other underwater rescources including minerals (oilrigs). The rule of law in this zone is dubious extending only to fishing restrictions and regulations, and application of domestic environmental law.

So in a nutshell if you spear a tuna at 199 miles you can get heavily fined, while if one engages in drug trafficking at 13 miles from shore US officials are under no specific obligation to take action :head

Tuna can be also found in shallow waters (>10m) close to dropoffs or in proximity to rapidly deepening waters. I shot a 60 kg tuna on the surface last summer at a depth of about 15m, and in the same session saw a gigantic yellowfin cruise below me at 7m at a total depth of about 11-12m. In both occasions I was about 40m away from land...needless to say this is my numero uno fishing spot :D:D:D:D
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catch laws pertain to any fish landed in the country. You can shoot whatever you want far enough out but it would be against the law to bring it back regardless of where you shoot it.

The reality of our situation is that last time we were sold out by the recreational fishermen who said that spearing tuna would be too dangerous especially with fishing vessels near by. This time we must stand up for ourselves and not just expect to be included.
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Originally posted by Baur
So in a nutshell if you spear a tuna at 199 miles you can get heavily fined, while if one engages in drug trafficking at 13 miles from shore US officials are under no specific obligation to take action :head

I think you are slightly mistaken. State waters alone here in the N. Gulf extend 14 miles and then federal waters go well beyond that...then you get into the EEZ which still falls under jurisdiction. Last time I saw the 40' customs boat with 4 250hp outboard doing 90 mph he wasnt chasing spearos. :cool:
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On a side note
I don't think jurisdictional claim aspect is much different anywhere else. The borders in the Persian gulf concerning offshore exclusions and legal rights etc. (read OIL and FISH) extend right up next to each other (they meet out in the middle somewhere). In Qatar you can leave "qatari" waters and hit Iranian or Bahraini waters right away although the whole gulf separates them. I hear its something about all the oil out there :)
Great information on the legal waters of the U.S..:) Now lets get to making some change. Who has or who is going to do something? Please post! Lets not just say its something we need to do, but lets see who actually is going to do something. :cool: For you divers outside of the U.S., if faxing is too expensive, you can mail a response to:

NOAA Fisheries
1315 East West Highway
Silver Springs, MD 20910

Please give positive karma to all posters that respond with pledged action to this thread.
:wave :wave :wave
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From Terry Mass

Terry Mass sent me the following statement to send to the NOAA and to use however I wanted. It is excellent, but remember he is only one man and thus one vote. Your voice is just as important!

My name is Terry Maas. I represent breath hold divers who use muscle-powered, non explosive spears to hunt offshore pelagic fish. I have printed 20,000 copies of a book dedicated to this sport. I hold the current records for Pacific Bluefin taken by spear while freediving-398 pounds and the California state record 98-pounds. I am director of an international organization analogous to the IGFA for world record fish taken by spear. I offer the following facts and opinions.

Opinions: Using a spear is arguably the first method employed by man for taking fish. In blue water freediving, breath hold divers (no scuba) make dives of a minute or more and if they are very lucky, might spear a blue water species such as tuna and dolphin fish (dorado) and others. As a very enthusiastic but very low consumptive group, why should we denied the chance at an Atlantic tuna?

Facts supporting the opinions
1. Spearfishing as described above has always been legal in the Pacific.
2. Spearfishing for tuna in the Atlantic will not ever make a statistically significant depletion of the resource. No more than a handful of bluefin tuna (6 fish) are taken by spearfishermen in the best years in the entire Eastern Pacific.
3. Spearfishers coexist well with traditional anglers and commercial fishermen.
4. There have been no significant safety issues with divers and anglers or commercial fishermen operating in the same area. Divers use floats with very conspicuous flags and float lines and tending boats are always near.

The Magnusen Act expressly calls for the participation of all types of user groups for pelagic Atlantic species. Not allowing spearfishing goes against the spirit of the act.


Terry Maas
Just a little update on our NOAA Options & Issue meeting in Port Aransas last night. There were two men from NOAA there to give the presentation. About 20 some people were in attendance. Their presentation was done with Power Point and they brought up several issues and options. The interesting thing was most issues and options were things that there were no clear cut answers too. Different interest groups could easily take opposing views. Adding spearguns as an allowable harvesting method was about the most clear-cut and argument free issue there!

Six attendees chose to speak at the end. The first was the president of something like the Texas Recreational Saltwater Fishing Association. He set the tone by sharply criticizing the NOAA. He made the statement that “he believed the commercial fishing industry should be regulated into obscurity!” Most people in the audience seemed to agree with him and either there were no commercial people there or they choose to stay quiet after that.

The next two to speak was a Washington bureaucrat and his Marine Biologist PHD wife. They also sharply criticized the NOAA. They believed it was ridiculous to make recreational fishing (which in their opinion was so minor to the commercial harvest) more regulated. They also quoted several laws requiring information collected by government agencies to be transparent and useful. They said almost all of what the NOAA was proposing did not meet these requirements.

My buddy and I were the next to speak. We decided to keep it simple and not bring up things unless they did. We were sure they had already heard most of the arguments from previous meetings anyway.

We started a club last year (South Texas Freediving Association, www.stfreedivera.org) and used that name as the association we were representing. They really seemed to like that we were representing an organization. Little did they know we only have five members! Our arguments were the number of tunas speared by spearfishing would be statistically insignificant; it did not pose a hazard with other boaters, because we were well marked with buoys, flags, and with a boat and driver staying with us, and the remoteness of the locations limited boating traffic; it would make speargun use for tunas consistent with the west coast; we had no bi-catch since we see what we shoot (the audience had a good laugh with that one); and we deserved to participate as well as any other group. We purposely chose not distinguish freediving from scuba. Both the men from the NOAA and the audience seemed to accept and agree with us.

After the meeting a man from Texas Parks & Wildlife, who had taken part in the meeting, came up to us and wanted our names, phone numbers, and any information we had on our club. He said he would like to contact us and get our opinions on different issues for his work. Later he said he scuba spearfished and tried freediving once, so I would not be surprised if some of his interest was personal.

I have talked to a couple other divers who have been involved and I am little disappointed more spearfishing women/men did not get behind this, but I do believe the ones that did will have made a difference. We have had enough representation for them to understand what we want and of all the possible issues and options spearguns is one of the few they can pass without much complaint from anyone.

Looking forward to setting the Texas State Yellow fin non-rod & reel record someday, :D

PS The last meeting is in Cocoa Beach, Florida on Wednesday, June 30th. Hope some of you Floridians make it! :D
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Hey, add karma for donmoore! That's the way to handle the Fed!
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