Reply to Article about a Speared Brindle Bass

In a recent article by Jill Gowans from the Natal Mercury, it is reported that residents are outraged (and rightfully so) at the killing of a giant protected brindle bass shot by a spearfisherman over the New Year. As President of South African Freediving and Spearfishing Association (SAFA), I would like to go on record as follows :

* The vast majority of Spearfishermen in South Africa are law abiding citizens and practice a high level of conservationism when they spear one or two fish for the pot. They are fortunate enough to be able to practice not " tag and release " but " release and tag " ie they only target mature, not under-size fish - as they can be selective under the water. There is no by-catch that is wasted.

* Spearfishermen do not use scuba gear, but rather breath-hold freedive with mask, snorkel and fins. It is not an easy sport and is mostly practiced by clean living, super-fit, extreme sportsmen and women. It is not unusual for 4 spearfishermen on a boat, after 6 hours of diving, to come back to shore with no fish at all.

* Most spearfishermen adhere to the Marine Living Resources Legislation and in fact, it was spearo's who voluntarily and unanimously put in place protected and restricted lists even before this was legislated.

* The Provincial Underwater Unions and the National governance body (SAFA) is vehemently opposed to any illegal and unethical conduct that portrays spearfishing in a bad light. We take immediate disciplinary action even when matters are sub judicae. After criminal or civil case outcomes, we follow such cases up to ensure that the disciplinary action is sufficiently punitive and keep records and black-lists of offenders.

* We applaud the hard work of conservationists of which we pride ourselves to be part of. We assist them in their work and we act as whistle -blowers if we suspect or witness any illegal acts. In fact, it was other spearfishermen who reported the recent killing of the Brindle Bass near Kelso. SAFA does not condone the killing of the brindle bass in question and the current investigation and criminal case must run it's course. We would like to educate the public more about Brindle Bass too, because as with Teddy Bears - the real thing is not so cuddly up close :

The Malgash tribe call this ferocious fish " Tukula ", which means Man-eater. Rudy vd Elst in Sea Fishes of Southern Africa records, " this fish is potentially dangerous to man and has been known to attack divers and shipwreck survivors and it is very aggressive towards unwelcome intruders. The great power of this fish makes it one of the most dominant predators in the sea ".

The Brindle Bass has adapted to become the bully of the reef with it's small piggish eyes and flattened nose of a pugilist / streetfighter ( Promicrops means small in front of the eyes and short snout ) and the armour plated lance's on it's back ( lanceolatus means spear-shaped ). The huge specimen that was housed in Durban Aquarium used to dominate the larger shark inmates. In fact, as in the wild, sharks form a big part of this creatures staple diet.

You don't want to mess with this sucker ! I have had a Brindle Bass appear out of nowhere and swallow whole a 12kg Kingfish that I had just speared. To retrieve the spear was impossible. Directly after that, every fish I speared, was lost to the same vacuum cleaner. I had to get in the boat and move to another reef before I could land any fish. I have also got video evidence of Brindle Bass attacking scuba divers and spearfishermen alike. Wild creatures should be treated as dangerous and viewed from a reasonable distance. The practice of feeding Brindle Bass and Potato Bass is dangerous and has led to deaths in the past.

However - this does not mean that they must be hunted and killed by anyone. Brindle Bass are wonderful creatures and deserve the right to live and propagate just like everything else !

Regards : Len Turner 083 633 2851
President : SAFA