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The Ethics of Spearfishing

Although the history of spear fishing goes back thousands of years, the ethics of modern events crosses the line on sport fishing morals and common sense practices.

One of the leading organizations for spear fishing is Rocky Mountain Spearfishing and their code of conduct appears reasonable. But like any other organization in the sporting world, there are violators and those that cross the boundaries of decency. One such is the recent spear fishing event at Lake Pleasant, Arizona.

The Code of Conduct for this organization reads, in part, “6. Processes their catch to maintain quality and avoid waste.” Our co-host, Marc Townsend, has been following these events and how they cross the line when selecting what they will shoot. Such events include one at Fish Lake, Utah, where the Baja Boys host another great dive where the were 9 pros and 9 new divers that participated. This event focused on cleaning out the sucker population, but occasionally speared a fun game fish. This follows the line of “the gun doesn’t fire by itself; someone has to pull the trigger.” In this case, we’re talking spears. In this event there were two Brown Trout and a Tiger Muskie weighing in at 36lbs.

Brief Background of Spearfishing

Careless Spear Fishermen

Many US states allow spear fishing in lakes and rivers, but nearly all of them restrict divers to shooting only rough fish such as carp, gar, bullheads, suckers, etc. A few US states do allow the taking of certain game fish such as sunfish, crappies, striped bass, catfish and walleyes. Freshwater hunters typically have to deal with widely varying seasonal changes in water clarity due to flooding, algae blooms and lake turnover. Some especially hardy midwestern and north central scuba divers go spearfishing under the ice in the winter when water clarity is at its best.

In the summer the majority of freshwater spear fishermen use snorkeling gear rather than scuba since many of the fish they pursue are in relatively shallow water. Carp shot by freshwater spear fishermen typically end up being used as fertilizer, bait for trappers, or are occasionally donated to zoos. Read Complete History.

Spearfishing Code of Conduct

The Responsible Spearfisher:

1. Values and respects the marine environment and all living things in it.

2. Employs the selectivity of spearfishing to take only what is needed.

3. Uses patience and awareness in targeting fish, and avoids undersized or overfished species to help ensure healthy fish stocks now and into the future.

4. Recognizes the limits of their ability, experience and equipment, only pursuing prey when there is a high likelihood of success.

5. Strives to dispatch their selected fish in a prompt and effective manner.


6. Processes their catch to maintain quality and avoid waste.

7. Undertakes to learn and comply with applicable laws and regulations and follows safe spear fishing practices.

8. Helps others to enjoy and respect the marine environment through exemplary conduct and mentor-ship.

9. Recognizes the significance of promoting accurate perceptions of spear fishing.

10. Upholds the highly selective, honorable and ethical nature of responsible spear fishing.

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