Bringing up spearfishing in the wrong conversation group can be met with ghastly silences and mortified looks of disgust.. YOU MURDERER!
Spearfishing is a privilege that a fortunate few get to experience. It takes years of practise, skill and a degree of fitness to enter the ocean, seek out a target species and take home a feed of fish.
This article addresses the reasoning and reality of understanding where our fish comes from and choosing an ethical and sustainable way to catch seafood.
As science continues to reveal the extent of the damage being done to our oceans by unsustainable mass production commercial fishing practises, a movement is growing to understanding where our fish comes from and take responsibility for the seafood we put in our mouths. For the vast majority, fish comes from a can, frozen box or supermarket deli. Information about the origin and sustainability of these fish is hard to come by. Few consumers read ‘purse seine caught’ on their labels and imagine the carnage of an entire school of tuna, the size of a football field, being ringed up in a net and dragged out of the ocean along with any animal unlucky enough to be nearby.
To eat fish that haven’t contributed to wasteful by-catch or the depletion of a vulnerable species is only possible through intimate knowledge of where it comes from, or to fish recreationally. Spearfishing is unique in the level of information available before any impact is had on a fish. A diver can choose a fish species and size before catching it.
I love eating seafood and take comfort in knowing that the seafood I consume comes from a sustainable source. Selecting the size of the fish I take means I don’t take more than I need.
A big part of the disdain shown towards spearfishing comes from the act of propelling a metal spear into a fish. Envisaging the same act being committed against a human is barbaric but the reality is somewhat different underwater.
An experienced spearfisher will line up a shot and place a spear directly into the brain or spine of a fish, rendering it instantly dead or paralysed most times. This is the most humane method of taking a wild free swimming fish out of the ocean. Large scale commercially caught fish most likely endure an horrific end to their lives. From slowly drowning in a net while crushed under the weight of an enormous school of fish, to hanging hooked to a long-line overnight, there isn’t a simple quick way to take strong healthy free swimming fish out of the ocean.
Smaller commercial operations like hand lining are more humane in the way they treat fish.
Wild local fish have a much smaller carbon footprint than imported fish, especially farmed fish which often require huge inputs for the yield. Swimming out, catching a fish, filleting it and cooking it removes a number of the steps that are required to commercially prepare a fish for sale minimising the environmental impact of eating fish.
Although study into the benefits of recreational fishing is limited, recent studies are showing health benefits are both mental and physical. Getting out and freedive spearfishing is an amazing way to stay healthy both physically and mentally. There are few greater satisfactions than interacting with wild aquatic creatures big and small. Practised the right way, spearfishing is one of the most environmentally friendly methods of catching fish.