[Coral-List] Thoughts on Spearfishing on Scuba
jmcmanus at rsmas.miami.edu
Fri May 9 13:29:55 EDT 2014
Of course, diving on compressed air without a certification course is
extremely dangerous. In both Bolinao, Philippines and Punta Cana, Dominican
Republic, we found that hookah divers had a very high accident rate. Roughly
speaking, in both cases, one could expect that 1 in 10 users tend would be
afflicted with either some form of paralysis or death within a given year.
Depletion of stocks of fish, sea urchins, lobsters, etc. in shallow waters
tends to lead to both longer periods of use per day, and deeper forays.
Thus, the problem worsens over time. Ashton Williams, a diving instructor,
biologist and conservation leader in Antigua, has trained local fishers to
use scuba properly -- and this approach should be practiced far more widely
than it is.
Because spearfishing tends to select for large fish, our Bolinao study
showed quantitatively that spearfishing was less a cause of growth
overfishing than corrals and gill nets. However, that was under very heavy
levels of fishing, and there were extremely few fish reaching ages wherein
one would favor protecting the oldest fish as well as the juveniles (for
reproductive output reasons). That study is towards the end of the book
"Resource Ecology of the Bolinao Coral Reef", freely available on my
However, as nicely described in the plenary talk in the recent ICRS by
Geoffrey Jones, fish tend to learn fear. This probably explains why reefs
where spearfishing is common are widely believed to be poor choices for
underwater photography. One should choose one or the other for a
well-managed reef -- keeping in mind that banning local fishers from an area
while enabling tourists to fish is generally a bad idea.
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Zahra Ennis
Sent: Thursday, May 08, 2014 5:28 PM
To: Nicole Crane
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov; eric at booksbyeric.com
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Thoughts on Spearfishing on Scuba
In 2012, I completed a report on Commercial Spearfishing in Jamaica, through
the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture and the University of the West
Indies. It was based on delivering questionnaires to spear-fishers
islandwide, looking into the impact spearfishing made on the fishing
industry as well as the logistics of it, such as which types of air supply
yielded the greatest catch. Among the types of gear studied were Hookah,
SCUBA, and none (free divers).
This study showed that although the use of SCUBA gear was the least popular
method for these spear-fishers, it allowed them to spend the least amount of
time per day fishing, and catch an average of 15.5 kg daily, almost double
the daily catch of free divers (8.9 kg).
The real problem was shown to be the use of the Hookah apparatus, which
allowed divers to catch more than four times the daily catch of SCUBA users
and eight times the daily catch of free divers.
Of course, catching more fish is great for those trying to make an immediate
income from it, however, to an already overfished environment such as the
reefs of Jamaica, it is only an added stressor, resulting in a continued
decrease in biodiversity and reef fish populations and ultimately a huge
problem for sustaining the fishing industry.
I'm not sure if you are reporting on recreational, commercial spearfishing
or both, but hopefully this info helps a little.
B.Sc, Marine Biology
On Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 11:55 AM, Nicole Crane <nicrane at cabrillo.edu> wrote:
> Hi Eric,
> I know many spearfisherpeople, both free divers and scuba divers, who
> are careful, knowledgeable, and skilled. I also know some who are
> reckless and not careful, and who do not have a good knowledge base
> from which to draw from (at least not about the fish they are targeting).
> The most important thing for all hunters, I believe, is to understand
> the fish you hunt, the impact of the hunting activity, and how to
> minimize the impact in oceans that are under threat from multiple factors.
> Fact: there are many fish that come to the nearshore to lay eggs in
> nests. For some of these fish, the nests are guarded by males (such
> as the temperate west coast cabezon and ling cod).
> Fact: These males will guard those nests, and are very easy to spear.
> This is in fact the worst time to spear them as you are essentially
> killing them and all the eggs in the nest they are guarding. For
> Cabezon, this can represent the reproductive effort of several females
> (multiple females will lay in one nest).
> Fact: scuba divers have an edge over free divers here because they can
> just swim until they find the fish, and easily spear them.
> Free divers tend to give the fish more of a chance, since the free
> diver has to rely on more skill to hunt and then spear the fish.
> On 4/28/14, 7:42 AM, Eric Douglas wrote:
> > I write the Ask an Expert column for Scuba Diving magazine and I am
> looking to quote one or two people who are opposed to spearfishing on
> scuba. I would like to hear from anyone with a fact-based opinion.
> > Thank you.
> > Eric
> Nicole L. Crane
> Cabrillo College
> Division of Natural and Applied Sciences
> nicrane at cabrillo.edu
> Oceanic Society
> Senior Conservation Scientist
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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