Scientia Marina, Vol 80, No 1 (2016)

Assessing the impact of spear fishing by using competitions records and underwater visual censuses

Pablo Pita
Department of Applied Economics, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Juan Freire
Teamlabs, Spain


Recreational fishers are increasingly competing for space and resources with commercial fishers worldwide, but have been poorly studied. In particular, the impacts of spearfishing competitions on the temperate fish assemblages have seldom been analysed. In Galicia (NW Spain), there are currently 5000 spear fishers, and 500 of them participate in spearfishing competitions. An historic archive of spearfishing competitions was used to assess their influence on the subsequent competitions in the area and to analyse their effect on the fish abundances estimated by underwater visual censuses. The annual recreational catch of the spear fishers was also estimated and comparisons with the commercial landings were performed. The spear fishers targeted 29 species, although six accounted for 95% of the catch. Most of the species show low vulnerabilities to fishing pressure and only Dicentrarchus labrax, among frequently caught species, can be considered as moderately vulnerable. The overall impact of spearfishing competitions on fish populations was limited, although some competitions temporarily reduced the abundances of Labrus bergylta, the main target species, by up to 83%. Spear fishers caught a large proportion of the total catch of common species, with recreational catches of some species (e.g. L. bergylta) matching or exceeding the commercial catch. The inclusion of this fishery in the management models of the coastal ecosystems is strongly recommended.


underwater visual censuses; fish assemblages; recreational fisheries; spear fishing; fishing impacts; coastal ecosystems

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