Does Spearfishing Contribute To The Loss Of Fish Stocks In Spain?

A lot of spearfishing advocates claim that their sport is more environmentally friendly because, unlike recreational or commercial fishermen who use hook-line-and-bait systems, the spearo can select his/her specific fish.

A recent study published in Fisheries Management and Ecology,” however, appears to conclude that recreational spearfishing competitions off the Northwestern coast of Spain helped reduce the population of “coastal rocky reef fishes” by nearly 76 percent over the past 50 years.

According to the study’s abstract:

The use of commercial catch statistics to estimate overfishing consequences has been criticised, but alternative long-term data sets are rare. Long time-series data sets from recreational fisheries competitions have been used to infer trends in coastal fish communities. Here an historic archive (1953–2007) of recreational spear fisheries in Galicia (NW Spain) was employed to estimate long-term changes in coastal ecosystems. Using generalised additive regression models, decreases in the abundances of coastal rocky reef fishes of up to 76% over the last 50 years were found. In the same period, the mean body weight also decreased by 76%. In addition, relative catch frequency has decreased for the most valuable commercial species. Overfishing, amongst other human impacts, has brought these ecosystems so close to collapse that it is urgent to implement measures to ensure their recovery.

Agree with the study’s premise? Disagree? If you can access the full report (click here to read it), feel free to debate it in the forum below.

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  • It sounds like commercial fishing is responsible for the decline and spearing comps are used to help provide data. It doesnt sound at all like spearfishing is responsible, it says recreational fishing comps NOT spearfishing comps.

  • OH, WTF... we get prompted to purchase the actual info referenced in this short little intro article? what a crock. way to dissuade people from looking into how you formed your opinion.

  • Totally agree - what utter tripe! Much, much more likely that commercial fishermen are emptying the seas by the ton per day than by a small handful of spearos catching onsie, twosie fishes and then mainly only on the weekends, during the season and only when sea & weather & travel conditions permit.

    The decline of anchovie stocks (which far too small to spear) are indicative of the harm commercial fishing is having. Ditto the historical decline of herring & pilchards/sardines.

    • No doubt how destructive the commercial fishery is. But we spearos have to hold in mind that some reef fish like the grouper are growing very slowly while some species can have a live span of 100 years or more. At the same time the spearos number, skills and their sophisticated material has developed especially in the last decade not ideal for the sake of the fishes.

  • An local angler in Beeston, Devon told me he had the previous day reported a Spanish trawler that was illegally fishing inside the UK's 1/4 mile exclusion zone with a quarter mile long net. He was clearly upset as this was robbing shore anglers of their rapidly diminishing prey. Spanish trawlers are fishing here because they have exhausted their own seas. Both the Spanish & French coastlines have a long held reputation for being exhausted by overfishing (by commercial users & supported by a tradition of eating anything & everything! :D). Our own seas have also been over-exploited BY COMMERCIAL fishing over the last hundred years or so - it is very sad & disturbing. Ireland (Eire) seem to be on top of this - I recently watched a youtube video featuring the former England sea angling team captain Alan Yates visiting Ireland - they have now, for example, stopped commercial fishing for Bass. Declines in fish stocks meant the once thriving Irish fishing tourist trade start to see anglers unwilling to make the long journey to not catch fish (we can do that in the UK!).

    I also don't believe shore anglers are having any significant impact and there are far, far more of them (I reckon there are about 10,000 times more active Anglers in the UK than spearos/spearas).

  • It may well be that spearos are the cause of the decline(I very much doubt it) but the article(abstract, I was too cheap to buy the whole thing) doesn't say what the cause of fisheries decline is. The study was using the catches of competition spearos as a data source to measure the state of the whole fish stock. This should be a positive. The data produced by competition is seen as the most reliable available.
    If spearo leap to the conclusion that this study suggests that we are responsible for endangering fish stocks then what can we expect from mainstream media?

  • scott is right. The guy clearly misunderstood the abstract. If you were to read the very first line "The use of commercial catch statistics to estimate overfishing consequences has been criticised, but ALTERNATIVE LONG-TERM DATA SETS are rare."
    So the issue is the unavailability of long-term data (free from sampling errors).
    If accurate long-term data is found,statistical analyses can be applied to the data.
    lastly conclusions can be drawn from the results.
    So the problem stated in the very first line was solved by using "an historic archive (1953–2007) of recreational spear fisheries"