Is Spearfishing Sustainable?

Spearfishing is a big game sport. 

The Green Nomad

Or so many people like to think… The truth is that many people will seek out a sport like this with the intention of landing a big fish. The reality is that to get the big game fish you need months of planning, kit preparation and the right weather conditions.

It takes a lot of resources to produce big fish. They eat a lot more than the smaller reef fish. They eat more of things that eat more of other things. The larger something is the more moving parts involved in supporting it. Take, for example, an apex predator like Tuna. It feeds on intermediate predators like Mackerel, which in turn feed on smaller fish like Herring, which feed on microscopic Copepods, and so on.

When you look at spearfishing from that aspect it is hard to say it is sustainable. However when comparing to how most people source their food, particularly their seafood it is very sustainable.

Ultimately it is up to the spearfisher to make sure that he is doing his part to stick within the guidelines and adhere to certain spearfishing ethics.

When comparing spearfishing with not eating meat you are going to find it hard to call spearfishing sustainable. Apex predators all take up energy. A spearfisher can be selective, hunt smaller fish, or even remove pests from the ecosystem.

There is no doubt spearfishing is more sustainable than:

  • Shopping at a supermarket for meat or fish
  • Buying frozen fish (trawler caught)

80 per cent of the worlds fish stocks …. are reported as fully exploited or overexploited

UN Report

Yes the oceans are in a very fragile state. Being in the ocean gives you appreciation of that state. The selectivity of the sport – being in the water and able to visualise the prey – allows the hunter to choose what they shoot. But, more importantly, what they don’t shoot. This paves the way for a sustainable harvest.

However this sustainability comes down to the spearfisher themselves. There is evidence that a single shoreline fishery can be ruined through the activities of spearfishers. With the opportunity to be a selective spearfisher comes the opportunity to pillage and take more than is reasonable. Spearfishing puts you directly in control of what you target and in what numbers. We rely on that individual to exercise simple common sense.

Check with your local fishery organisation, spearfishing store, and spearfishing clubs to better understand good fishing practices. Key tips are:

  • Get to know your local area and species
  • Understand the breeding patterns and seasons (target species around that)
  • Do not remove large females from the system
  • Take only what you need, don’t go overboard
  • Target pest fish

Spearfishing ethics are in place to ensure you and generations to come are able to enjoy the many great opportunities and adventures that the ocean has to offer.

Spearfishing is sustainable but only in the right hands. Much like any other sport it has some bad actors and bad news travels fast. There are plenty of tools in the tool box already. Try not to be another spanner.

References & More Reading

UN Report On Fishing Standards

The impacts of spear and other recreational fishers on a small permanent Marine Protected Area and adjacent pulse fished area

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