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Spearfishing: Good or Bad?

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take a breath and relax..
Apr 26, 2001
Hi all,
Before I start I am a freediver, and a spearfisherman.
Before I started diving I used to hunt... you know rabbits pigeons etc. I gave this up mainly due to the continued negative press and peoples negative opinions of it, worldwide but especially in the UK. So when I started freediving spearfishing looked the obvious place to head, and head I did and I love it. I was just wondering what other people think. You, your familys, your friends? My personal argument for it is I dont and wont buy commercially caught fish, I think its unmanaged and environmentally unsafe. I take fish to eat and no more. However yes I still get a thrill from the hunt and BIG fish excite me. Why do you spearfish, do you think its OK to hunt for food, is it OK to spear for fun or in search of a record or fame, do you agree with competitions? and finally what are your opinions on spearfishing with scuba gear?
Just interested to see how other divers feel
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Hi Joe, I never hunted or fished in my life until I started spearfishing. I am a tree-hugging environmentalist, opposed to NAFTA and the WTO etc. I don't eat birds or cows, but I love fish. I think that finding your own food and killing it yourself is an honorable and natural process, much more natural than buying plastic wrapped bloodless meat from the market. If I kill it, I know that it was done with respect and thanks, which I believe is very important to my health and the health of the environment. Mass fisheries have devastated the oceans, and as I'm sure you know, the percentage of fish taken by spearos is infintesmally small, so nobody can argue that spearos are impacting the environment...maybe 50 years ago, but certainly not now. I am not a fan of hunting for hunting's sake, as in competitions or for wall mounts, etc, but each to his own. Of course the spearo system of fishing is vastly more benevolent than the angler who throws back stressed and damaged fish back into the sea, in search of the right fish. Spearos "catch and release" literally tons of fish simply by being in a position to see their target before they shoot.
This is a good topic that we should discuss on this website.
Erik Young
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i dont really think there is anything wrong with spearfishing, i tell you now that i am not a spearfisherman, for the simple reason that i dont freedive enough and i dont have any lakes with fish around here (other then bass lakes).

Im not opposed to spearfinshing if its done in an ethical manner but ive seen people hit numerous fish in the tail just to see the trash around. This is not ethical but if the fish are shot where they are suppose to be i find it to be a great sport. I find it to be similar to bow hunting where the real challenge is to fool the animal into not seeing/noticing you.

spearfishing is not really a danger to the environment because you choose what fish you are going to spear and you(spearfishers) only take a minimal amount of fish per year. Unlike the comercial fisherman who simply net up whatever happens to be in the water.

well im interested in seeing if everyone else has to say
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What I don't understand is why people are against spearfishing, but think flycasting is OK?!?
I tried to provide snorkling/freediving content to suite101.com , but was told nobody was interested by the editor (who turned out to be the provider for the SCUBA page, dig that) one of the things she got really hysterical about was the idea of spearfishing. Of course they have info on fishing, hunting, etc.
Go figure.
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The ethics of spearfishing all depends on the individual. I myself only take enough to feed myself and immediate family and try to take only mature fish - however I do know that some of my collegues are not as like minded. I think it is very important for the image of the sport to be a sensible fisherman. Walking up a crowded beach with one or two nice fish hanging from your belt is certainly seen as acceptable by the majority of the public and they'll often come over and have a quick chat, but coming out with a belt loaded with undersize fish is quite rightly viewed as mere butchery. It is these experiences which turn people against the sport and to be honest can't be all that rewarding for the fisherman.

There's nothing I enjoy more than a competition, although I never fnish particularly highly. They are an important source of information for the beginner and if conducted correctly can stress the importance of ethical fishing. The majority of the competitions I have competed in sell the fish at the conclusion of the day - this money helping to fund the club, and in Jersey fisherman boat support is rewarded by the donation of the less desirable fish for their pots. The only change I would like to see would be the exclusion of these species from competition - dogfish is a prime example - not much use to anyone and not incredible difficult to catch.

Spearfishing with a tank:
For me this is totally unacceptable. For one it devalues the skill and considerable training that real breathhold fishermen work hard for. The considerable noise created by bubble blowing usually eliminates the possible of catching the more prized species therefore either juveniles or lesser species are taken. The other alternative is searching for flatties, but you don't even require a gun for these a knife will usually suffice. We had a prime example a few months back in Jersey. A lady wrote into our local paper complaining about a scuba diver emerging with a speargun and small flat fish from an area viewed as a pretty decent fishing spot. The full page article concluded in calling for the area to be band for spearfishing. The principle problem is that anyone can don a tank, take a gun and stand a chance of shooting a fish. Anyone who's given true spearfishing a serious try knows that it takes considerable time and effort before you catch your first fish let alone your first prize fish. I implore anyone out there who takes a speargun whilst scuba diving to desist and seek the guidance of skilled underwater hunters.

One final point you might find useful when in a debate with anti spearos. 'If no-one was allowed to consume anything they were not capable of catching and killing themselves the worlds resources would still be in a very healthy state.'

Sorry for the length of this mail, but you made the mistake of asking my opinion!!:t

Im glad to see most people echo my opinions, I see spearfishing as a 'nicer' way of providing food than the devastating mass fisheries, true the public hold different opinions off us but many seem uneducated on the sport (Is that the right term?). There will always be those who bring a bad name to us, the same as there is in any pasttime, be it drugs in track and field, mindless violence with guns or shooting protected or undersize fish with spearguns, and as for diving with tanks I see that as unacceptable to, kind of an unfair advantage, bit like going after Deer with a helicopter mounted machine gun! (and yes I have seen this done.)
From a personal perspective I try not to shoot or dive from crowded beaches, not because Im ashamed but it may give the wrong message people may jump to conclusions and of course theres yours and others safety to be aware of. When walking back from a dive I often meet a couple of fishermen or walkers and often kids, more often than not they are generally interested, and choosing the right or indeed wrong words can leave a lasting impression. On a similar note, does anyone have imposed or otherwise restrictions on the traveling or display of their speargun, I for example, never enter or leave the water with the gun loaded, dont keep a loaded gun on the float or at the surface wont fish where there are swimmers, and alwas travel where possible with the gun covered.
Just my thoughts keep them coming

Spearfishing seems sort of like a tabu in the performance (deep) freediving world. I'm glad this thread has come into existence.

I've never tried spearfishing. In an ideal world, I would like there to be no fish in the supermarkets, no domestic animals either. Think of how the ocean would rebound from the pressure of restaurants and people eating fishsticks and tuna fish sandwhiches. The only fishing allowed would be by spearos. Heck I think there should be a limit on how many fish you can eat in a month. Say four, or something. People no longer treasure the excitement of a rare meal!

Diving in the Med was strange (ibiza, Spain). The water was a beautiful deep blue, like the movie we all know so well. But compared to British Columbia waters, it is a graveyard of dead reefs and sterile water. I would like to see those waters turn green again someday...

For me, whether spearfishing is good or not depends on your local conditions. I would feel weird about spearing in the Med, or in a small cove in BC where I can count the ling cod and rockfish on one hand. I think if you're going to hunt, it's your responsibility to know your environment and the habitat, behaviour and numbers of the species you're hunting, and try to judge whether or not you're doing harm to the local ecosystem. I like Erik's approach...

I think I'd be more drawn to stalking marine life with a camera. Has anyone ever asked Terry Maas why he no longer spearfishes? I remember him saying that now he only uses a camera.

Or how about deep water encounters with neither camera nor speargun? Freediving to meet whales, large fish and other denizens of the deep I think is amazing when you don't have any alterior motives.


I have really been enjoying peoples comments on this general question. I like to spear fish, but I am very sensitive to the local aquatic and social contexts when I hunt. My preference is to hunt from a boat near waters adjacent to B.C.'s small coastal islands, which this year have been loaded with lig cod. I do not approve of hunting with tanks for three reasons. The first is that it feels like unfair chase, the second is that it doesn't work for big spooky fish, and the third is that it very easily generates bad dive profiles, unless one is willing to tow dead fish, which to me seems like like a poor idea for a bunch of reasons. Having said that, I might use a tank to hunt for big halibut that tend to hang out deeper than I can easily freedive, but I am a little resistant to the idea. To me freediving and speafishing fit very well together, the hunting activity profile totally fits the practice of freediving, so I'm into it.

Best wishes,

It´s odd you should mention a breech between freedivers and spearfishermen, because in my experience the big majority of free-diving web pages deal with spearfishing. Not to mention that half of the magazines with freediving in the title are largeely about spearfishing.
I still don´t get why spearfishing is bad and using hooks is cool.
what a great topic!

1. macho-shoot-em-up
2. zen-ers
3. amateurs
1. technical
2. weekend warriors
3. amateurs

to start with the breath-holders, i've got mixed emotions. coming from south florida, i've seen a peppered mix of spearotypes. first, you have the teenage group that is more inspired by the fame of their catch than their actual ability to perform. they'll tend to pull the trigger on anything that moves. doesn't make you feel too safe around these guys. this group is the most prone to swb. then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the "zen"ers. these are the older spearos that actually are never phased with whether or not they shot the biggest fish in the group. they're in it more for the pure experience. these guys might even be able to tell you the latin names of the fish they're after. :) then, there's the amateurs. these youngsters are in the shadows of about 95% #1's and about 5% #2's. they think the coolest guys come back with the most fish. but, it's the amateurs that are under-rated. these are the guys that will listen to anyone because they aren't cool enough to hang with the #1's. aquiles(my partner) and i spend most of our time trying to educate as many amateurs as we can before they turn to the dark side. :)

for the bubble blowers their are also 3 distinct types. the only ones i have respect for are the technical divers. these guys go down with mixed gases in about 150ft of water after grouper and large reef dwellers. someone coming that close to pulling themselves out of the gene pool definitely gets my respect. these guys really have to know what they're doing. next, you have the weekend warriors. these guys terrorize the shallow reefs and store their catch in a mesh bag connected to their belt. i've seen 5 nurse sharks follow this one diver all over the reef and he had no idea they were there. talk about a pavlovian mistake?! if i were a shark, i too would think all divers carry food on them now. these guys are idiots and receive the greatest amount of citations from marine authorities cause they have no idea what they're shooting. and, as always, you have the amateurs. these people go back to the popular family dive spots with their new guns they just paid top dollar for. they'll get frustrated and throw the gun back in the boat when they realize none of the fish will sit still and their spears keep getting stuck in the reefs.

i think most of the experienced spearos have a strong enough voice to keep our sport politically clean. it seems that our knowledge of marine life is succeeding that of the wildlife officers who are starting to leave us alone. also, the popularity of freediving is helping us spearo's out too. people have a whole new respect for tankless spearfishers because of the skill it takes to catch good fish. i honestly think they'll ban spearfishing with tanks in certain areas soon.

anyways, i'll leave you with a short story. aquiles and i were on a reef taking pictures of fish. we noticed one of the resident snappers had no tail. we followed it around and took a few pics of it. it was sad, but cool how a fish could still survive with a missing tail. this couple came through with tanks and the guy had a speargun and a bag of little fish. they never saw us at first. aquiles actually scared the crap out of the lady by hiding in a hole and swimming out right in front of her. :D we were at our boat when we saw the both of them come up freaking out about a big nurse shark trying to tear the bag from the guys hip. they were swimming back to their boat and i heard the lady congratulate her friend on getting the big snapper with no tail. !!!! ugggg!
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spearfishing: good or bad

Hello everyone,
I too am a freediver and a spearfisherman, but I also scuba dive and dive deep w/ tech gear. I personally think there are times and places for both forms of spearfishing to be practiced. After living in the Fla. Keys for 9 yrs and having David Sipperly helping me get started w/ freediving and serious spearfishing this is my method of choice. With that being said, I originally started out scuba spearfishing in NC. Here most good spearfishing is done at least 10 mi. offshore and sometimes as far as 30. The depths could be from 60 to over 130 and vis from5' to over 70'. With these conditions and the ever changing weather its hard to find good freediving spots. Now that I have moved back its hard to get the same freediving opportunities. I freedive quite a bit from the shore on a jetty for smaller inshore species but offshore is were the big boys live. I think we have to becareful making judgement calls on banning certain types of spearfishing within our group. Like the motto "United we stand, divided we fall". Personally I think it has to be a judgement call by the individuals. There will always be people that don't think hunting/spearfishing is ethical or right but it's our job to educate them, not hide from them. I'm proud of what I do, I personally believe it's the most ecologically sound way to fish. Which ever way you choose, do it w/ respect for the resourse. Thanks for your time.
I have to agree with Jay and Freediver 48. If we're talking about eco-friendly hunting, then really it shouldn't matter whether the diver has a tank or not. I have also seen idiots with tanks but no respect for local protocol or the environment, but I've read a lot of stories from spearos with the same attitude. It comes down to the person I believe.
Personally, I would not use scuba for hunting unless I was starving and had to do it. But I don't disrespect a scubaspearo who is thoughtful and careful.
I also like Laminar's idea about banning commercial fishing....can you imagine what the ocaen would be like in 10 years? I know it's not feasible or really a fair idea to many people, but wow, what an impact that would make!
Erik Y.
the term "spearfishing"

i just automatically picture a freediver. i really don't have any problems with environmentally conscious scuba spearfishers. i guess it's like the whole racial issue. it's not the entire race, but the trash that gives the rest a bad name. but, i guess what i was trying to point out is that freedivers still have our sour apples as well.

banning commercial fishing? i think that would be great, but it would wreak economic chaos. too many people make their livings at it, and there's too large of a market for seafood. i think the fish and wildlife management just needs to get their head out of their butts and straighten up some of the commercial harvesting laws. we actually had an officer tell us that pelagic species were soon to be banned from spearfishing(in florida). i think that's the biggest load of crap i've ever heard. i don't see how two spearos bringing in one large bull dolphin can compare to one boat of weekenders bringing in over 70 peanut dolphin. i guess that's where these stupid politics come in.

just thoughts for the day,
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I for one would definately like to see a ban on commercial fishing infact, Im increasingly warming to the idea of a ban on all things commercial! I take peoples point on Scuba spearfishing and as pointed out there is a time and place for everything, and as a spearfisher it is still a form of my sport. In the UK, large species arnt common or even present most of the time but there is NO spearfishing with scuba gear, obviously I have nothing to compare our conditions to so cant say if it has a good or bad result, mind you I see scuba spearfishers bein much more successful than freedivers, especially in the UK where half the time you cant see where your going let alone what your shooting at! I still dont see the point of spearfishing for record fish, well I do but I dont think its neccesary, for a start they are beautiful majestic things which have probally been swimming round longer than we've been on earth, then some shoot smaller fish with no other purpose than to use them for chum to attract the BIG fish, is this right? I enjoy hearing of and seeing photos of record fish, but I think it edges a bit to close on the commercial side of things for me. Id much rather take a photo of a record fish and let it grow that year more or a couple of pounds heavier. Bring on my lottery win so I can buy an island, retreat and spend all day diving taking a fish to eat occasionally and maintaining the reefs ecosystem, maybe it will catch on!

I'm not against spearfishing per se, but it sounds a bit phoney to say it's ecological to first use a boat to get 10 miles offshore, then shoot a few fish and then drive back... and probably you've been using a car from home to beach and back. If you'd cycle to the shore and swim where ever you are going to shoot, then it might save some resources.
Thats true if you take into account the lengths some of us go to spearfish... Cars, boats, etc, its not as ecologically freindly as it might be. But I think the point is that as a spearfisher taking a fish it represents a more 'friendly' way to take a fish for dinner than paying a commercial company to reap the seas by buying fish from your local supermarket... which you probally drive to and who use non biodegradeable packaging and employ hundreds of people who all drive to work, the list goes on, I think its a concept called 'food miles' the less miles food travels the less pollution is associated with it. I know there must be a lot of pollution associated with some of the fish in my supermrket cuz they certainly aint British!
I guess it depends how far you want to take the idea, like I said when Im rich Ill be living self sufficiant on an isalnd somewhere carving my own little piece of paradise :eek:
spearfishing: good or bad

I think we may be straying from the mark a little on the subject. The statement "ecologically friendly" just refers to the harvest method itself. I agree that the human population has many negative impacts on the enviroment and we should minamize these, but we can go to extremes. I work in the marine science field and have seen alot of the impacts on the enviroment. I think I'm in pretty good shape but I don't think I want to attempt to swim the 3 mi offshore to the nearest spearfishing site or bicycle the 10 mi back to my house w/ all the gear associated w/ spearfishing, not to mention if you actually got any fish. Everything in moderation. If someone wants to do these things thats great, but in some cases it's not practical. We could try to solve all the worlds problems here but I don't think thats what the original post was about. Thanks.
Now that would bring us some world wide press.....
'World Problems Solved on DEEPER BLUE by Spearfisherman' rofl
I guess we cant hope to do that but its nice to see everyone has an idea of how they might be or can help, but world pollution definately is deriving from the subject!
I recently heard of a study on Non-native/occasional visiting tropical fish to the British Isles (trigger fish and such) and their increase, it appears that much of the data came from the small population of Spearfishers, it also transpired that some of this 'valuable sighting data' occured just before some 'valuable' shots by said spearfishermen,
Any thoughts?
Bull Dolphin


Is bull dolphin good to eat and how big do they get?

I have just never heard of spearos shooting dolphins or sea mammals before... I'm a little confused. :confused:

Before you answer, I would say that it's hypocritical for someone to say that it's worse to kill a sea mammal than a fish, but I would say that spearing a larger animal goes beyond the quest for "things to eat from the sea." Unless of course you freeze it and eat it all winter and stop fishing until you need more.


I'd rather people would see the ocean as an ecosystem, and not a resource, which is, unfortunately, what it has become.

I agree that the headline of "Deeper Blue freedivers save the world" is hyperbole, but I like to remind myself that instant gratification is what has got us into the environmental mess we're in now. Eating fresh fish is one of the pleasures of life. But again, I've been trying to eat with the seasons and eat locally so that I actually do treasure certain foods when they become available, instead of going down to the grocery store and getting my mahi-mahi or whatever from Hawaii and oranges from South Africa in February. Fresh Whitefish in Georgian Bay, Ontario is to die for, but I usually only eat it once or twice times a year- and I always look forward to it.

I am getting more and more used to the idea of having to wait a little while for the good things in life. It's hard though, when our culture implores us to "buy it now!" and "buy it again" and "you need this!" all the time.

So I support spearfishing when it's really needed, I guess, but not for sport or for showing off the 30-year old resident of the reef with a spear through its neck just because it was there.

just my thoughts, I hope it doesn't sound preachy,

bull dolphin aka mahi mahi


dolphin(Coryphaena hippurus) are extremely popular down in florida. the bulls can grow to an excess of 60lbs. not too common though, but every year anglers will bring in a few brutes. the cool thing about dolphin is that both sexes mature in less than a year. for some reason florida doesn't have size limits on them so people will keep all that they catch(up to 10 per person). the small ones we call peanuts. people will actually get into a school of them and bring back 80-100 mahi on one trip. assuming they at least have 8 people on board. it's not easy spearing them. out in the open water they'll stay way clear of you so stealth and tactics are a must. what a fun way to hunt, though.

hey, good job on the stories and your performance over in spain. if i had the ears, i'd love to try for some depth. sounds like an awesome experience.

for everyone else,
the grouper in our area are highly migratory. especially for the size that we target. not many residentials. most groupers that we take are around 3-5 years in age. i would definitely pass on shooting large ones though. ones over 40lbs tend to have worms. again, the cool thing about grouper is that they are protogynous hermaphrodites(sp?) which means they can change sexes. some grouper that stay in groups(not all do) will change sex in order to keep up reproduction. like if the resident alpha male dies, the largest female will change to a male to keep things copasthetic. so, i feel ok about my harvesting of these fish. and, i'll maybe only take 1 grouper per every 2 outings. and now i'm only spearfishing maybe about 10 times a year.

i think the understanding of the species you are after is the only way to determine whether or not "spearfishing is bad or good."

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