This series of articles is dedicated to analyzing the current ethics of spearfishing and its many global practitioners. To begin, I propose three archetypes that I believe characterize the intentions and behaviors for the vast majority of spearos: the hunters, the harvesters, and the killers.
Spearfishing in its modern state resembles terrestrial hunting far more than it does traditional hook-and-line fishing. The hunter archetype is the embodiment of this paradigm; the hunter carefully studies their game and devises a plan for harvesting it. The hunter values fairness in the hunt, respect for the animal and the environment. Restrain is used during the hunt to guarantee that the specimen is of desirable quality and that the shot placement is sound. The flesh of the hunted is the final component to this timeless tradition: affirmation of the hunter’s true skills and intentions.
Their equipment is carefully selected for the envisioned task and tested before the hunt to ensure accuracy, reliability, and ruggedness for the expedition ahead. The speargun, polespear, or sling is given special consideration. This weapon is not just a tool, it is an integral part of the ceremony and symbolizes the hunter’s ethics and aesthetics. Hunters may opt for “sportier” hunts than way regulations may allow for, such as choosing to use a smaller gun or a polespear when they may not need to. Unfortunately, the proper preparation is not always given to use more challenging equipment and this may result in more injured and lost fish.
Furthermore, hunters may consider certain species to be trophies and all too often these same species are less common and grow to larger sizes. This may put more pressure on the population and does not always result in the best quality meat.
The spearfishing harvester archetype is not so different than their traditional hook-and-line fishing counterparts. The primary objective is to obtain the desired flesh from the ocean and it just so happens that diving and spearfishing is the most practical means to this end. Harvesters typically take great pride in their ability to provide for others and often times develop their culinary skills as part of this. Similarly, to the hunters, harvesters express concern over the well-being of the greater environment and especially of the stock of species of interest. Unlike harvesters of the distant past, modern day harvesters realize that the natural world is susceptible to over-exploitation and behave with a conservationist mindset.
Equipment is selected based on utility and affordability; a harvester will not waste money on frivolous or flashy gear. Similarly, prey items are usually selected based on their seasonal availability. A harvester is always going to pursue at peak abundance with the most effective method.
The killer values shooting as much game as they are legally allowed without thought about what they are to do with it or how this may impact the environment. They do not value a hunt that could be months in the planning nor do they value the culinary properties of a certain species in a given region. The killer relishes the demise of their prey and feels betrayed and angered when a fish outwits them. Their intention is not to connect with nature through experience or consumption but rather to dominate nature and parade their perceived success in doing so. The killer is an abomination to the sport that results from misguided machismo and short-sightedness.
The killer’s gear is selected solely based on the image it portrays: bold, tough, and ostentatious. The prey choice of the killer must also possess a certain quality; Primarily, it must be valued or respected by the community. The killer may cut their teeth on simple game but they won’t receive the recognition they long for without advancing to more well-respected game species.
In all likelihood, most spearos will have any varying amounts of these three archetypes with few being quintessential of only one type. Recognizing our motives and tendencies can better help us to understand ourselves and our ethical framework. In the next articles, I will address how we view ethics, develop them within ourselves, and how this all plays out in practice.