News Satire People Food Other

In Defence Of Spear Fishing

By Ian Puckeridge on October 27, 2010 in News

In response to an article in the last issue I have been asked by the Editor to provide readers with a spear fishers perspective on our local area.

I have lived in Bondi my entire life and as an accomplished spear fisher (six-times Australian Spear Fishing Champion, once New Zealand National Spear Fishing Champion and twenty years representing Australia internationally in spear fishing), I can attest to having a very good knowledge of our coastal waters.

Spear fishing is the most selective form of fishing. There is no by-catch and no unintentional captures – this is what first attracted me to spear fishing. Spear fishing has been a part of Australian culture for thousands of years and indeed part of Bondi culture since the end of the war.

The Digger’s Club used to have a very competitive spear fishing club with members like Ron Taylor (Australia’s only world champion spear fisher), Ben Cropp and also Don Linklater, who was the first person to commercially produce spear guns and who started the renowned Undersea brand of spear fishing equipment from his house in Brighton Boulevard.

For those readers new to spear fishing, it is carried out with a hand spear or spear gun, both of which are powered by a stretched latex rubber. The skin diver is equipped with a basic kit comprising a facemask, snorkel and a pair of fins, limiting one’s ability to that of their breath-hold capacity. In this way, most diving is carried out in fairly shallow water, usually less than 15 metres in depth.

During the summer months, experienced skin divers venture to exposed points where currents exist to target fish including kingfish and mulloway. In the winter months, fish including drummer, bream and at times rock lobster are targeted.

Of concern to me with Sydney’s growing population is that we are seeing some generally inexperienced people doing the wrong thing, like diving near swimmers and catching fish that they may not use. For this reason, the Underwater Skindivers & Fishermen’s Association has been actively educating the skin diving community and has developed an accreditation system for spear fishers.

Spear fishers have been banned from taking Blue Groper since the restriction was enacted in 1969 and were responsible for demanding the ban. The groper have made a terrific recovery since and are now the most common large fish that divers encounter in NSW waters. Hundreds of Blue Groper now live between Bondi and Clovelly.

Last month’s issue of The Beast mentioned a group of people that want to introduce a marine reserve from South Head to Clovelly to protect the marine ecosystem from over-fishing. There is no evidence to suggest that recreational fishers or spear fishers are depleting local fish stocks.

Ironically, the area that they hope to protect has three raw sewerage outlets, which one could argue might be having an effect on the local fish populations. A better way to protect fish stocks and juvenile fish is to get Fisheries to remove commercial fishing from estuaries. We have seen what a great success the removal of commercial fishing from Botany Bay and Sydney Harbour has had in improving fish life.

?There are other ways this group could help marine life in the area and that is to insist on the removal of shark nets from our beaches as they catch a lot more dolphins, turtles and even a dugong last year at Clovelly. We could replace these shark nets with drum lines, which are simply a large baited hook attached to a drum on the surface that by default targets large sharks rather than dolphins and turtles. These drum lines are used successfully in Queensland waters.

If you would like to learn more about spear fishing, or where your nearest club is, you can send me an email at