Do you want to catch better fish? Be a safer Spearo? Then SPEAR SAFE!

Australian Spearfishing Safety Initiative

Competence & Culture

There have been concerns raised regarding the perceived development of a competitive culture in spearfishing circles based on the belief that diving ‘deeper for longer’ is going to result in better fish. Continuously diving deep and especially LONG does not equate to shooting the best fish!  This can be seen to be  particularly prevalent among younger, inexperienced spearfishers. This culture is often fed by internet and magazines. Part of this culture is an increasing trend towards spearfishers using ‘competitive’ freediving techniques in their bid to go ‘deeper for longer’.

Spearfishing is about hunting, learning fish behaviour, reading conditions, identifying ‘signs’ and good ground etc. While spearfishers need to utilize freediving it is a different sport to ‘competitive’ freediving. It can endanger spearfishers when the two sports are discussed interchangeably without fully understanding the differences between spearfishing and competitive freediving. 

Any spearfishing training course must bring the focus of our sport back to hunting techniques, tactics and freediving techniques suitable for spearfishing (and away from ‘competitive’ freediving). Training courses should emphasise:-

Diving conservatively and the need to share the knowledge from experienced spearfishers;

Bring people that are holding existing courses together and have one standardized course;

Any initial course should be a basic course SAFETY to show them how to do the basics; NOT advanced diving (‘competitive’ freediving techniques). However, there is a need to ‘bridge’ some of the knowledge learned from competitive freediving an apply it to safe spearfishing.

At club level we should endeavour to have a safety/training officer in each club;

Reinforce the message of SAFE- SUSTAINABLE- SELECTIVE Spearfishing.

Practical Safety for Modern Freediving by Wayne Judge

Spearfishing v Competitive Freediving

The following discussion is adapted from an email by Erez Beatus:-

Umberto Pelizzari urges divers to maintain a 1:3 ration for Competitive freediving. However, it is a lot more complicated than simply keeping a 1:3 ratio. Deep freediving is an an-aerobic activity that requires a long recovery to insure purging of lactate and reloading of oxygen (amongst other things). The purpose of competitive freediving is to go deep ONCE.

Spearfishing on the other hand is an aerobic activity (if performed correctly) and hence the ’short’ recovery on the surface. In spearfishing the dive must be REPEATED over many hours.

Competitive freediving and spearfishing are two different activities with a common basic principal. Spearfisherman obviously utilize freediving and proper training and education will improve their skill level, ability and the knowledge of preventing the materialization of risks.

If and when you spearfish deep it is important to maintain at least 1:3 ratio (or 1:4 or more for very deep diving). Ascent rate is important as well as is the correct recovery breathing (this is referring to the recovery from the oxygen/ carbon dioxide / lactate standpoint and not taking onto account nitrogen).
Decompression brings into play a whole set of rules, but only when Spearing deep. Spearing at 15m and even 20m will most likely not result in DCS (unless you do not recover enough, ascend fast, are not hydrated etc...)

Spearfishing at 40+ meters is DANGEROUS. We must realize that this form of fishing exposes the body to very big / fast pressure gradients that greatly increase the chances of DCS. Spearfishers diving these depths can get ‘bent’ and it can happen even while maintaining 1:3 and even 1:4 ratios. There are simply too many factors in play here. The accumulative bottom time, with the added dehydration / fatigue/ stress can dramatically increase the risks. On top of this you have added factors such as the simple fact that diving to 40m requires around 80seconds of diving before you even include time on the bottom or pulling a fish off the bottom. When people go on You Tube and see the whole 145 club stuff and ‘spearing at 61m’ they think this is the way to go. You can get great fish shallow by understanding the fish and with the proper approach. This is what we need to promote.


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