Brendan O'Brien's Deep Breath column in May asked what was wrong with spearfishing. We thought it would get a big reaction, and it did.
At last in Brendan O'Brien we have someone expressing commonsense views. Most divers I know enjoy eating fish, and responsible spearfishing is the least damaging way in which to catch them (fish, not divers).
Some fish populations compensate for this by becoming sexually mature at a younger age, but these premature adults often produce fewer offspring. Mix this with the pressures placed on the remaining population by a diver hell-bent on sating his appetite by spearing smaller fish, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Brendan may be oblivious to the adverse effects of recreational spearfishers on the fish stocks along swathes of Mediterranean, Red Sea, South-east Asian, Australian and many other coastlines, but many divers I have met have voluntarily hung up their spearguns.
Brendan makes a good point about overfishing and the wasteful techniques that have resulted in global crashes in fish stocks - even our lowly cod is now an endangered species. What possible justification is there for sport divers to add to the problem?
So, Brendan, will you ever use a speargun? My advice is to stick to photography.
Director, Coral Cay Conservation While I realise that Brendan O'Brien was being slightly tongue in cheek, his logic is that if more people go spearfishing there will be a decrease in demand for trawled fish, leading to less trawling. Clearly huge numbers of people would have to go spearfishing for this to happen. I can just imagine the damage caused to the coast and coastal waters of the UK if everyone who wanted fish and chips on a Friday night went spearfishing.
In reality any fish removed by spearfishing will be removed in addition to commercially caught fish. This can only increase depletion of fish stocks. Surely this would seriously compromise relations between the BSAC and organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society?
Macclesfield Sport usually means that both sides have a chance to win, so unless spearfishermen are willing to go up against something like a great white shark they can't really call it a sport. No, their prey is usually some small, harmless fish that doesn't stand a chance.
Yes, today's fishing methods are out of date and responsible for the destruction of fish stocks. But a dead fish is still a dead fish. How many spearfishermen can tell if the fish they are about to kill is a female ready to lay eggs? How many can even identify some of the common species they see on dive trips?
How many will stick to the rules anyway? I was on a boat with a guy who had taken more than his share, and asked the other divers to claim them. I dived with another guy who thought his knife was there simply to stab everything in sight. He couldn't wait to get a speargun. Even his girlfriend was appalled at his behaviour. The danger is all too obvious. Diving in low viz the spearfishermen still want their dinner, and I have seen some near-misses. But the main reason spearfishing makes me so sad is that it destroys those fish most of us go to see.
In France last summer I came across an octopus living in some rocks. It was great to dive down every day and point him out to other divers. A few days later I saw a spearfisherman walking up the beach with the octopus hanging on the end of his speargun. I felt both sadness and anger. His need to kill had taken away the pleasure of visiting the octopus and robbed it of its life. Spearfishing is outdated at a time when most of us want to catch marine life only on film. There might be plenty of the giant Californian halibut that Brendan O'Brien saw killed with a speargun, but how would he feel if it turned out to be the last of its species? And before you ask, no, I don't eat fish.
Marazion, Cornwall I agree that spearfishing deserves cool and rational consideration rather than the current situation, which seems to be: "We don't do it because we don't do it." And having given the practice cool and rational consideration I find myself very much against it.
Like Brendan I enjoy eating fish, so it would be hypocritical to object on the grounds of not wishing to hurt the poor, helpless creatures. I do however much enjoy seeing live fish swimming by when I am diving, and this is possible only if they do not see us as a threat, as I am sure they soon would if spearfishing became common in Britain.
I wholeheartedly agree with Brendan's comments on the greed and inefficiency of the fishing industry, but it is irrelevant. We all see far fewer fish now when diving than we did a few years ago, but this is an argument for changing and tightening the law, not for bringing back another way of catching fish. But thank you Brendan for the article, and thank you Diver for printing it. I don't think this, or any other diving-related subject, should be taboo.