The impacts of spearfishing:
notes on the effects of recreational diving on shallow marine reefs in Australia.

Jon Nevill  (Dr Jonathan Nevill)                                     revised:  July 30, 2006

"In the old days (1940's and 1950s) my friends and I used to be able to go to Rottnest (Perthís holiday island) and spear a boat load of dhuies (best fish around).  These days thereís nothing there - I donít understand it."

85 year old veteran Western Australian spear fisherman Maurie Glazier quoted by niece Jo Buckee.


On the basis of anecdotal information (as little other information is available) I argue in this paper that recreational diving (in particular spearfishing) has had devastating effects on the fish and crayfish (southern rock lobster) populations of accessible shallow reef environments along much of the Australian coastline. The paper describes my involvement, as a teenager, in overfishing Victorian reefs. Overfishing of a similar nature appears to have taken place in other Australian States where reefs are within ready access (by car or boat) from population centres of all sizes. Damage to shallow reef environments in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, due to lower population pressures, seems likely to be concentrated at more accessible or attractive sites. These impacts are significant in a national context, yet appear to have been ignored or under-estimated by both spearfishers and the government agencies charged with conserving and regulating marine environments. This relaxed managerial approach runs counter to the voluntary FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, which Australian governments claim to support. Current government management of the sport of spearfishing fails internationally accepted precautionary benchmarks in all Australian States. Further controls over spearfishing by State Governments are recommended, covering nine specific issues.

Keywords: spear, spearfishing, effects, impacts, Australia, recreational diving, lobster.

Citation: Nevill, Jon (2006) The impacts of spearfishing: notes on the effects of recreational diving on shallow marine reefs in southern Australia.  OnlyOnePlanet Australia; Hampton Melbourne. 39 pages: available online at