[Coral-List] Thoughts on Spearfishing on Scuba

Balazadeh Mohtadi, Carlos cbalazadehmohtadi226 at g.rwu.edu
Mon May 12 16:24:18 EDT 2014

Just to add my opinion on spearfishing vs SCUBA.  My roommates and myself
all spearfished (I personally learned how to a few years ago when I started
rooming with them).  First off, both of them worked on trawl boats once a
month for research purposes and they reported all the time on the amount of
excess fish that would be caught thrown back, most of them would be dead by
the time they got them out of the net.  Mass scale fishing using massive
trawlers is possibly the main reason fish stocks are being depleted.
 Although, that is off subject, recreational fishing tends to be rigidly
regulated, at least I know it is in the northeast. We never went
spearfishing or fishing/ or anything involved with fishing without our
permits, granted they only cost between $7-15.  Secondly, we would always
review the fishing limits of each fish we can catch and we'd memorize fish
lengths that allowed them to be legal.  In all honesty, I personally would
not shoot a fish unless I was 100% certain it was legal sized, plus if it
looked like a pregnant female, I'd ignore it (easier to tell with Tautog.
 The way we did this, normally good spear guns come with some type of ruler
with measurements on it.  Or we'd estimate it using the length of the gun.
 Obviously, mistakes happen, but you're not down there obliterating the
entire population of flounder or sea bass.  Thirdly, on SCUBA you are
always limited by the amount of time you can stay down and the depth you
would be hunting.  Personally, I have spent more time looking for fish and
getting more results off scuba than with it.  You simply have way more time
and less to worry about floating on the surface and taking your time to
dive down.  To give a time track record, on SCUBA tops around 1.5hrs within
around 15-40ft range, whereas off SCUBA I'd go anywhere from 10-35ft and up
to 4hrs.  However, that's my personal record and I'm a newbie with
breath-hold techniques, my friends have dove down to 90+ ft off SCUBA.
 This also depends on the type of fish you are planning to get to.  Again,
most of the spearfishing community that I know of tends to stick to
regulations without exceeding their total fish caught.  The reason why
everyone tries to keep to their fish limits is that if they're caught by
patrolling fisheries department of fisheries, all their gear can be
instantly confiscated plus there are fines.  It really comes down to how
responsible people can be with their fishing practices and whether there is
enforcement on behalf of the fisheries department in the area.  This is
coming from my experience in Rhode Island and I'm also aware this same
applies in Florida since my friends would always go down there during
spring break and tell me their stories.
So which one is better?  I can't really say, both of them have their
advantages when it comes down to fishing, but it also depends on what type
of fish/depth and time you're dealing with.  Bottom line, both of them can
be just as good or bad if fish regulations are not being observed and the
populations are being obliterated by irresponsible fishermen/divers.

I hope this helps,


Keyvan Balazadeh
B. Sc. Marine Biology
Roger Williams University

On Sun, May 11, 2014 at 7:08 PM, Laura Valderrama <
lauravalderramab at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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,
> etc).
> 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.
> Greetings!
> 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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