[Coral-List] Thoughts on Spearfishing on Scuba

Laura Valderrama lauravalderramab at gmail.com
Sun May 11 20:08:11 EDT 2014

Hi all:

I have some experience fishing with spear gun fishermen in the Archipelago
of San Andrés, Providence and Santa Catalina, and I definitely considered
that the impacts on the ecosystems depend on the fishermen decision to
catch one animal or the other. This decision is associated to fishermen
knowledge and conscious about the influence of his actions to the
ecosystem, and also to economic aspects, his willingness to buy one thing
or the other and the necessities of his family. In addition there is always
another fact; the randomness of encountering an animal (especially fishes
swimming); and finally the expertise of the fishermen (if they can go into
a cave or not, if they have good view under complex structures of reefs,

I think that in both type of fishing, free diving and SCUBA diving, there
are limiting factors; for instance in free diving the capacities of the
fishermen will limit the places they can reach as well as the time they
have to shoot a fish or hooked a lobster, or an octopus, or to collect
conchs (even if it is forbidden). In Scuba diving the limits are related to
the depth reached and body´s tolerance to nitrogen, however there is a
great advantage, based on reach deeper habitats, usually less intervened
and more inhabited.

Under the assumption that deeper ecosystems (in this case coral reefs) are
source of larvae, and contribute to the replenishment of shallower
habitats, I consider that spear gun fishing by SCUBA diving shouldn’t be
allowed. Not recreational, nor commercial. In artisanal fisheries I think
there is an unfair competition between the free divers and the ones who use
the tanks, so it shouldn’t be allowed. And in the case of SCUBA divers, the
initial intention is to enjoy the beautiful underwater view; the principle
is to observe the prettiness of marine biodiversity and to enjoy being
underwater, not to catch fish or other organisms. So I am not agreeing with
SCUBA diving recreational spear gun fishing. Nevertheless, I have an
exception, an important one; I am agree, and in fact I promote to catch
lionfish by SCUBA diving; those deeper places not reached by free diving
are infested by lionfish, so bearing in mind the context and ecological
emergency related to the invasion of this fish, I accept to fish lionfish
during SCUBA diving.


2014-05-09 12:29 GMT-05:00 John McManus <jmcmanus at rsmas.miami.edu>:

> 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
> ResearchGate site.
> 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.
> Cheers!
> John
> -----Original Message-----
> 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
> Hi Eric,
> 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.
> Zahra Ennis
> 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
> > 831-479-5094
> > nicrane at cabrillo.edu
> > www.cabrillo.edu/~ncrane
> >
> > Oceanic Society
> > Senior Conservation Scientist
> > www.oceanicsociety.org
> >
> > _______________________________________________
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> > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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> >
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Laura Valderrama Ballesteros
Ecóloga, MSc Ecología Marina
celular: 3176985042

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