Wow, I don't check the board for a couple days and this string goes from 4 replies to 47!
Anyway, just to clarify a couple points...
Rykat, your example about the spearing of jewfish/goliath grouper is an excellent demonstration of why there has to be common sense limits to the hunting of fish. They are protected here in FL and have made a heck of a comeback, so much so that local spearfisherman here complain the renewed jewfish population is having an effect on the population of other gamefish. Sour grapes if you ask me. As an aside, I was troubled when I saw Cap'n Jeff's fishing pics including a small jewfish. That was a very juvenile example of what could be a 600 pound fish. I'm surprised that anyone would keep it, but that's why the law steps in to protect fish species when the fisherman won't. Then the fisherman will complain when they can't fish for this or that, or that there's no more fish to catch. The people I spear with no longer target red grouper voluntarily because they're seeing too much pressure. It's better for the rec. fisherman to back off than create a situation where the gov't has to step in to regulate.
Gaz, there is definately a time and place for everything. Spearfishing on Breakers reef in West Palm Beach FL (where I live) is a big no-no. There's no law against it, but being our best and most beautiful recreational dive reef the dive operators and the dive community have convinced even the line fisherman to leave this reef alone. I don't advocate spearing in areas that have appeal to the recreational diver or snorkeler. Also, it's good to have untouched areas to act as spawning areas to populate the rest of the area. Dive and snokel ops need to make a living too and want a healthy reef full of fish for their clients. We only spear for fish in areas well off shore that are not frequented by recreational divers because the topography isn't terribly beautiful and the visibility is usually lower than on the "showcase" reefs. Also, the only organized spearfishing trips I know of are of the blue water kind where serious freedivers look for big game. I don't think it would be sensible to promote organized spearfishing tours on any reef system. It would last about a year before the fish population was blown out.
Simon B, there are definately spearos that look for the biggest fish, but up here the bigger older fish are usually diseased. A 15 pound grouper is more than enough fish to eat while a 50 pounder is frequently wormy.
bywarren, I see your point too. It's easy to criticize rec. fisherman or spearfisherman, but doesn't anyone who consumes fish contribute to the problem by supporting teh commercial fisherman who typically used hi-bycatch methods? And we can attack the commercial fisherman, but many of them are trying to make a modest living themselves. It's a complex problem and maybe the answer is there's just too many people to feed. Someone made a good point that on land we would never consider wildlife to be a sustainable food source. How long would wild deer last if there were no regulations? In North America the buffalo was almost exterminated from hunting pressure. Why should we expect the wildlife of the ocean to be inexhaustable?
Catatonic, I agree with you 100%. Most spearfisherman love the ocean and want a healthy sustainable fishery with a long future. There are a few that are pure trophy hunters and they're commonly looked down upon and criticized. When the folks I dive with get 2 or 3 fish on the first dive they quit and grab the camera for the second dive. Waste not want not.
Sorry for starting such a hot topic but I thought there was some excellent debate as well. For the record let me state that I didn't ask my original question intending to come to AC to spear lobsters (not allowed anywhere I know of and a great way to bend a very expensive shaft, btw) or slaughter the local fish population or terrorize the women and children, lol. We all love the fruits that the seas has to offer whether it's a photograph or a fish on your plate. What's good to see is that everyone is concerned and cares about preserving this very precious resource.
See you in 2 weeks, AC!