Sorry, for the spear fisherman drowned off Sydney, but … those   who would protest at the indiscriminate shooting of native birds, seem not to object to the ugly activity of spear-fishing in Australian coastal waters.

I recall as a child, a giant blue-green parrot fish lying on the beach with a hole in its head at Long Reef, one of Sydney’s northern beaches. Trusting fish which do not flee a diver,  wrasse, or parrot fish are not tasty eating, so clearly this was slaughter. Now forty years on, you can dive anywhere around Sydney, but you won’t see a giant parrot fish any more.

Male wrasse or parrot fish

It`s a mockery to have state road patrols which care for injured wildlife – even snakes -while spear-fishermen continue to kill innocent marine life. The boneheads even hold competitions to see who can spear the biggest fish!

I have absolutely nothing against spear-fishing in poor African countries where entire families depend on the catch for food. But it is a senseless sport in Australia which considers itself a developed, eco-friendly nation.

Spearing octopus for food, Mafia Island, Indian Ocean


About Travels with My Hat

Australian photojournalist and author. Used London as a base for nearly forty years while freelancing in the Middle East, Arabian peninsular, Africa and South Asia. Have written and illustrated more than a dozen books and travel guides. Operates a well regarded religious images stock photo library: www.worldreligions.co.uk. Live in Leura in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney.
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  1. cobweb says:

    HEAR! HEAR!As a fellow Australian I totally agree with all you say.The coastal waters of The Great Southern Land may be rich and diverse and could be a joy for all, but what with poaching and the mindless plundering of recreational sports like spear-fishing they are indeed under threat. In this country there is a shameful history of slaughter without regret of native animals as estimated thousands of them die each year on our roads and in our seas. Those that kill seem to fall outside of the radar of awareness and concern and function on a different lower level of existence – perhaps the derogatory term 'bottom feeders' might suit them very well as they hurtle us too towards oblivion.

  2. Christine says:

    My sister has reminded me when we were young, there used to be a friendly porpoise that followed the fishing boats up and down Lake Macquarie (90 m. north of Sydney).One day, we found it on the shore with a spear in its side.I had forgotten: I think I was so upset, I must have put it out of my mind.

  3. Anonymous says:

    your a noob, not everyone that spearfish kills anything they see, i don't i only kill what i eat

  4. Anonymous says:

    Have you ever eaten fish? If you answered yes to that question then shut your wrinkly rag-hole.Spearfishermen in Sydney generally only kill what they eat. Their environmental impact is negligible compared to trawlers that take tonnes of by-catch, then dump it overboard. Or compare it to line fishermen, who have virtually no control over what they catch (and usually kill or severely injure). If I ever see you at the beach I will spear your fat haggy ass.

  5. Lee Cooper says:

    I don`t think your comment will help the image of spearfishermen in Australia. Good luck.

  6. Anonymous says:

    No one has denied that gill and line nets do not decimate marine life, but this was not the pointmade in the post. We know this, and we deplore it. But your crude reply has done Sydney spearfishermen a real disservice.

  7. A.B.H says:

    Re.anon. 25th Oct: what a wanker, as you stroll down to the sea, with yr foreskin dragging in the sand…

  8. As creator of this blog, I have the option of screening comments. Unlike many bloggers, I do not exercise this right because I don`t wish to act as censor. But I would request a degree of decorum in expressing your opinions.

  9. Anonymous says:

    My dear lady, you are on completely wrong track. Spearfishing is the most environmentaly friendly way to catch the fish. Fish stocks are being decimated by commercial fisheries. Of course, overpopulation is the real problem.Everytime you go into supermarket and buy the fish, just remember that up to 80% of the catch have been wasted to provide you with that, plate sized, fish, and you know what? You are contributing to overfishing by buying it. Catch it yourself.

  10. C.O. says:

    I am obliged to buy fish as while I like fishing, catch/keeping only to eat, I have no opportunity to do so where I live. And no, I do not buy fish in a supermarket as they are major contributors in selling threatened species – cod, tuna, swordfish etc. I have, in fact, just bought some farmed mussels from a small Algerian-owned wet fish shop nearby.This apart, I have seen with my own eyes, spear-fishermen killing for the sake of the chase. Or have things changed in Sydney? Are they now just shooting for their dinner plate? I would be delighted to have this confirmed. Only recently I photographed a South African spear-fisherman who boasted that a magnificent dog-tooth tuna, speared open-water diving, would probably be a world record (but there were no scales to check). The fish was hung in a tree for everyone to see before the flies got to it…and that is a bonehead.

    • Anonymous says:

      that’s the way all their meat is eaten. It is hung and often maggots get in and kill the bacteria. I’ve been to Africa this is not waste but common pratice
      [Admin – comment transferred from blogspot]

  11. AMA says:

    Some of the language in this blog is a disgrace

  12. Anonymous says:

    Spearfishing and spearfishermen are mostly good hearted people who are enviro friendly and kill selectively for the table. Please don’t generalise. I know many spearfisherment including my kids.

  13. I was thinking of the relationship humans might have had with fish when I wrote this blog. A huge number of fish are unafraid of divers, they will approach you and in some cases, you can even touch them. Then whack – out goes a spear and ends their friendly curiosity. Philippe Diole, a French underwater archaeologist once said: ‘the blood which flows down there is just as red…’ If you want to spear a fish, go ahead I suppose, all things considered, it is no worse than catching it on a line but face to face, I find it truly sad to kill a fish, especially trusting, slow-moving species such as wrasse and grouper which have been decimated by spearfishermen. Of course I deplore gill nets! And I posted many tweets regarding the so-called “super trawler”.

    • Anonymous says:

      Spearing wrasse and grouper is illegal. I’ve never had another type of fish come up to me they are very wary creatures.

      • Michael says:

        Most spearfishes are stewards of the marine environment, we see first hand the effects of pollution and overfishing. I have spearfished off Sydney for many years now and love that we are able to sustainably harvest a meal right on our door step. I suggest you do your research before lumping us all in the same category.

        That fish you saw sounds like a Blue Grouper. The early days of spearfishing used to be the wild west when nobody knew any better, the concept was new and the whole world was excited to see what came out of the ocean, dead or alive. Not only a few years down the track it was those same spearfisherman that rallied to make the Blue Grouper a protected species in NSW after they saw their vulnerability to spearfishing with a greater understanding/respect of the marine environment.

        Just because we are not “Poor” like some African countries doesn’t mean we should be denied the right to sustainably hunt a fish in our backyard. Please take this into account, as this is the true majority of spearfishes attitudes today.

  14. CBO says:

    Exactly. And just as I would not approve of native birds being shot with a bow and arrow, or butterflies being smashed with a squash racquet, so I do not care to see fish speared for their innocent curiosity. So be it!

  15. Ross says:

    Not much research went into this generalized view of spear fisherman.
    I can understand that someone could jump to this conclusion, because of things they have seen, and yes there are boneheads out there. But not just spearfishing. How many line fishers take undersized fish? And exceed bag limits. Boneheads in government allow methods of fishing that wipe out entire schools of fish in one hit, eliminating the possiblities of that school to continue breeding.

    When the law is adhered to, spear fishing is the most ecologically friendly way to fish. There is no by- catch, no undersized fish thrown back with their swim bladders wrecked by sudden pressure change. No undesired species left suffocating on the rocks .. I.e blow fish and wirras etc.

    Some species are easy to spear, and these are and should be protected, for example many wrasse, cod and grouper species that have no fear of man. Everything else takes quite a lot of skill to capture, much more that sitting on a rock with a baited hook waiting for who knows what species or size fish to have it’s last meal..

    I apologize for the boneheads in our sport that do stupid things like spear the puffer fish in the photo in this article, often this is unskilled teenagers with too much blood lust, and no skills to get quality fish, but the majority of spear fishermen pride themselves in a quick kill, which shows of their skill, and taking a quality fish or two home to the family once a month or so when the weather allows a good dive.

  16. Thank you for your courteous response to the blog. It made a pleasant change to read after some of the other remarks and I fully agree with your sentiments.

    What I also now hate are the muscled-up “sports fishermen” pulling in fish after fish just to show off their strength. And as you say, many species have their bladders wrecked when pulled from any depth so if thrown back, they will die anyway.

    I am sure the number of bonehead spearfishermen are a minority and thank heavens this is so.

    What we must do is find a way forward to educate other nationalities who are certainly guilty of needless slaughter of curious marine life.

    Thank you again Ross.

  17. CO says:

    Thanks for your comment Michael. Due to a mix-up with the order of responses, I replied outside the website to Michael and his reply is well worth publishing:

    Hi Christine,

    Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately in order to eat fish, they will have to die at some point. As spear fisherman we are catching those fish in the most sustainable and humane way possible. A skilled spear fisherman can go down and select the exact species and size he wants, often times coming back empty handed as the ?right? fish hasn?t been found. When a fish is speared, the shot is always intended to kill the fish instantly, unfortunately that isn?t always the case but the fish is always dispatched asap. Almost all other forms of fishing have a high bi-catch and mortally rate but unfortunately this is the world we live in. Over half the earths population rely on getting their protein from the ocean. In an ideal world everyone would just go out and spear their own dinner as needed but obviously this could never happen. I wish i had an answer to this problem but I don?t, the world is in a lot of trouble, simply overpopulated.

    All I can try to do is live a sustainable lifestyle and try to educate others to do the same.

    Unfortunately the Tiger shark video you are referring to (which there is many) is a result of commercialised shark feeding operations where sharks are chummed up using other dead fish so people can get their happy snaps. It is not something I agree with as it makes the sharks associate humans with food, there has already been cases of attacks on humans in these areas due to an increased shark population and a lack of fear around people. This is another issue the majority of spear fisherman are working together to ban. The oceans are already way out of balance, no need to change that balance even more.

    Ruthless slaughter of marine creatures is happening everywhere, everyday on a monumental scale. It breaks my heart seeing this as an avid lover of the ocean but again I can?t see a solution. One day on a super trawler would eclipse the total worlds spearfishing catch for a year. It?s a scary thought but makes me proud to know the fish I eat for dinner has had a wild and free life and has had the most minimal effect on the oceans health.

    Thanks for your understanding,

  18. Anon says:

    I spear-fish because i will only eat what i can kill as then i know it is done the most humane way possible. I dont eat red meat as i have seen first hand a botched slaughter. I used to line fish, but was put off it after a wobbegong shark decided to eat my hooks and i could not get them out. I was sad that i had hurt such a beautiful thing. I love the wobbegong sharks. So i dive in off my place in Sydney and get a snapper or a luderick or a morwong or a flathead. No by-catch, nothing being hurt needlessly and the fish is dead within 15 seconds, if not from the first impact of the spear.

    I love playing with the gropers, they are the dogs of the sea.

    It is the few spearfishers that give the rest of us a bad name. Take what you need, cause as little harm as possible and be respectful of the environment.

    • What a pleasant response. Would more fishermen, whether using a spear or a line, be as thoughtful.
      As a child I was always fishing. Either with or without my father. I only ever kept what the family would eat. Now I cannot bring myself to kill such beautiful creatures and I haven’t been fishing in more than 15 years. Gropers and the wonderful Napoleon, or hump-headed wrasse are such friendly, trusting fish.

  19. chris says:

    spearfishing is good, we don’t kill things we don’t need to kill. plus there is laws around spearfish to make it as eco friendly as possible, for instance you can not spear blue grouper and other protected fish species because they are either endangered or very easy to hunt, also there is bags size limit which means you can only shoot a certain amount of fish per dive. The fish you probably eat has come from boats trawling the ocean which damages the environment and kills marine animals that are not needed like sharks this is known as bi catch, spearfishing is one of the best ways to retrieve fish since it does the least amount damage to the environment. so before you go jumping to conclusions actually do some research.

  20. Bandy says:

    That’s a crock of shit. I disagree with your assumptions. I spear and only hit fish that I will eat that night. I don’t bag ten+ fish. I literally take for the night. I deplore the DPI which let you slaughter half the ocean before you reach you limit. A human should be entitled to hunt their food and eat it, that’s the grass roots of being a human. All these do gooders telling you what is right and wrong when they don’t even have a connection with life, they are the actual problem and they need to be eradicated. Ppl that live their lives telling you what others can and can’t do are the lowest form of human evolution.
    Spear fishing is usually a practice of appreciation for life. While I can agree on one thing and damn it frustrates me, is those that shoot in excess, lay their dead fish on the ground and take pictures of it. I hate that. The purpose of spearing is to be in touch with the ocean & life. To respect what your actions are.
    Humans no longer know where animal meat comes from, they eat it like it’s just a piece of meat of no life or prior existence. I encourage everyone to slaughter animals and eat their own catch, I think if more humans did this, they’d actually understand where meat comes from.
    Now off to bed to have your heart attack my dear.

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