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Spearfishing and sustainability?

Authors:
  • Reef Ecologic
Article

Spearfishing and sustainability?

Abstract

Proponents argue that spearfishing is selective and ecologically sustainable. The article discusses the good, the bad and the ugly of spearfishing. If focussed on recommended best practice and poor practice. Keystone species and fish that the reef needs are listed.
SPEARFISHING AND
SUSTAINABILITY?
by Dr Adam Smith
THE GOOD
Proponents argue that spearfishing is selective and ecologically sustainable because:
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
If you are fishing or spearfishing, these reef fish
in particular should be avoided.
Unicornfish (
Naso unicornis
)
Bumphead parrotfish
(
Bolbometopon muricatum
)
Steephead parrotfish
(
Chlorurus microrhinos
)
All other species of parrotfish
All species of rabbitfish
All species of surgeonfish
BEST PRACTICES
There are, however, guidelines for best practices that,
when enforced and followed, can ensure that spearfishing
becomes a more sustainable way to consume seafood
than most other commercial and recreational methods.
SEAFOOD GUIDE
FISH THE REEF NEEDS
Mass coral bleaching has occurred on many
reefs around the world due to above-average
ocean temperatures.
If le to grow, algae (seaweed) can
quickly dominate reefs and stop coral larvae
settling and starting the next generation of
coral colonies.
Plant-eating fish, or herbivores, remove
algae from reefs. In normal conditions, these
fish act as Nature’s lawnmowers and keep
seaweed levels under control. Following coral
bleaching, these fish are critical to reef recovery
because their grazing removes seaweed and
provides space for new corals to grow.
KEYSTONE SPECIES
Some species fill other vital niches in the reef ecosystem, performing jobs that cannot, and never
will be, filled by other species. These are known as “keystone” species. Without these species, the
delicate web of life underwater soon falls apart.
These are some of the keystone species that should never be targeted by spearfishers:
The views and opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect the oicial position of
Asian Diver
magazine, its sta or its parent company, Asian Geographic Magazine Pte Ltd.
Spearfishing is an activity that generates passion,
controversy and debate. Is it the most ecologically
sustainable method of catching a fish or is it an activity
that damages the environment? Is it preferable to catch
your own wild local seafood or to buy it?
When best practices are adhered to,
spearfishing has fewer negative impacts
than other fishing methods such as:
- Little or no by-catch
- Minimal impact on non-target species
- No need for bait
- Little or no loss of gear
- Minimal damage to habitat
Freedivers are restricted to
shallow water
Freedivers can target the size and
species of their catch
Some spearfishers have good
knowledge and cultural connections
to the ocean and can be considered
“hunter conservationists”
THE BAD & THE UGLY
Yet it is also a highly eicient form of fishing, and
so, when practised recklessly, with little training or
information, spearfishing can also be very damaging
to marine ecosystems. Spearfishing activities may also
compete with and impact coastal communities when
visiting spearfishers are removing fish that the local
people depend on for their livelihoods.
BEST PRACTICE
Education Sustainable, Selective, Seafood Safety
POOR PRACTICE
Education
Targeting the catch
with the right gear, e.g.,
pelagic fish
Freediving
Care for and eat your
catch
Adhering to legal catch
and size limits
Adhering to sustainability
guidelines on species and
size restrictions
Licensed
Eicient
“Conservation hunting”
Targeting threatened
species
Targeting fish at the
wrong time, e.g.,
depletion of large,
spawning, reef fish from
local reefs
Targeting fish at the
wrong age/size
Damaging and
losing fish
Spearfishing on scuba
Targeting fish that are not
good to eat
Waste
Understanding and
following all laws,
guidelines and best
practices
Learning and sharing
knowledge
Citizen science
Respecting other
ocean users
Ignoring other people’s
rights and opinions
Not understanding
or ignoring local and
international laws,
guidelines and best
practices
Good training
Diving with a buddy
Diving alone
Diving too deep
SHARKS
Eels
Billfish
(Swordfish, Marlin)
Pacific Salmon
Groupers Maori, Humphead or
Napoleon Wrasse
Large Snappers Barramundi Cod
Giant TREVALLIES
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