Is Spearfishing in South Africa in Crisis?

In my view the answer is YES!!!!

We will not be sending a team to the World Spearfishing Championships in Portugal in April to be competed for by the top 20 nations in the world.

At the outset I should point out that when I accepted the nomination as President of SAFA in PE, James offered his help in any way. I did not take him up on this until I discovered that we had not received an invitation to participate in this years Worlds. It seems that by then it was too late.

It would seem a futile exercise to try and apportion blame for this but the basic reason is fundamentally contained in the CMAS Underwater Fishing Regulations (“pidgin” English Version) dated 01-04-2005 which I have just received a copy of and reads as follows:

2.1.1 Only CMAS has the right to organise competitions for World and Continental Championships for Underwater Fishing.


            3.1 Participation

                        3.1.1 All Federations affiliated to CMAS Sports Committee and with voting rights to the discipline concerned are allowed to take part. The Zone Championships because of the worldwide involvement of the sport of underwater fishing. Zones will be in three groups as follows:
            a) Group I:      Europe-Africa
            b) Group II:    Americas
            c) Group III:   Rest of the World

3.3 Participations in the World Championships

3.3.1 Only countries allowed to participate in the World Championship are the countries that have
participated in the Championship of their Group that has taken place in the previous year. The
Countries can choose the group where they want to take part.
3.3.2 Countries authorized by group to take part in the World Championships (Formula)
a) If A = Number of countries which the organizing federation is able to accommodate (minimum 20)
b) If B = Number of countries having participated in the championship of each group in the previous
c) If C = Total number of the countries having participated in the championships of the previous year.
3.3.3 The number of countries of each group authorized to take part in the World Championship is given by
the formula:
If A = 20 (a maximum number)
If the number of countries having participate in their group championship =
Group I = 25
Group II = 10
Group III = 15
C = 50
The total number of countries of each group authorized to take part in the World Championship per group will be:
Group I = 20*25/50 = 500/50 = 10 Countries
Group II = 20*10/50 = 200/50 = 4 countries
Group III = 20*15/50 = 300/50 = 6 countries
The result by decimal will be rounded with the lower or higher unit (up to 0,5 with the lower unit).
CMAS Underwater fishing Rules
3.4 Selection of the countries authorized to participate in the World Championship
3.4.1 The selection will be done according to the classification of each country at the time of the
Championship of their group: According to example above would be:
a) The 10 first of group I
b) The 04 first of group II
c) The 06 first of group III
3.4.2 The organizing countries will be the first of its group (even if it did not take part in the championship of its group) and will be reducing the number of countries of the group qualified to take part.
3.4.3 Procedure should a qualified country not wish to take part in a championship.
a) Should a country not wish to take part in a championship it will be replaced by the first country
classified in the qualified order and so on until the last until complete.
b) If the procedure above is exhausted and the number of qualified countries are not of sufficient
number it will be the Fishing Commission and not the organizing country, to choose, if necessary,
the countries from the same group to take part, preference being given to the countries who show
enthusiasm to the activity with regards to underwater fishing, also the organizing of national
championships and whose official results have been sent to the CMAS.

This year because of limitations imposed by the host nation Portugal only 20 countries could take part, hence the above example applies.

In order to host a Zonal Championships it is necessary to apply to CMAS for permission, to submit a comprehensive document on the details of costs, areas etc. and to pay them the relevant fee for the privilege, besides inviting teams to participate. It is also necessary to have such an event registered on the CMAS Calendar at least 24 months in advance of the event.

There is also a considerable amount of other useful information that has come to hand as a result of trying to sort this whole thing out which I would be happy to share with anyone who feels they may have a need for it.

On behalf of SAFA I again apologize to those three who were selected and cannot go.

Although there are probably several thousand active spearfishermen in South Africa, only a small handful (about 100, mainly those who go to Nationals) are registered with SAFA and they pay an affiliation fee of R50 per year.

SAFA has about R17000 in its bank account. Thanks mainly to the real efforts of James in the last couple of years, cause I understand it was zero when he took over. It is probably the poorest National Sports body in South Africa. The boating section of SAUU has R270000.

Spearfishing as a sport remains in conflict with conservation authorities in many parts of our country and is frequently brought into disrepute by the actions of a few irresponsible divers, many of whom are independent of all of the organized bodies. This usually results in further draconian legislation by ignorant government officials to further restrict our activities. Only by collective bargaining (trade unions and toy-toying) can we ever hope to get on top of this situation.

In trying to get help – sponsorship - for our sport we continue to tap the lifeblood out of the small number of companies who provide diving equipment plus a few others for whom we are extremely grateful, but probably only do it out of friendship obligations to our members. Trying to get R50000 to send a team to Worlds is almost impossible. While theoretically, spearfishing is not a spectator sport, neither is Ski-boat fishing. They get massive TV coverage and sponsorships, we get almost nothing. In America we see spearfishing on their sports channel every week, on ours only once ever. In America it is possible to win $200,000 every week in a fishing contest catching 5 bass whose total weight seldom exceeds 10Kg.

In Europe, top spearfishermen are “Professionals” who get paid for their skill and expertise. Here our very best divers get no more than “boot money”, as Naas Botha used to call it, and have to eek out an existence poaching or in other professions.

If one looks around at other sports, one cannot help but applaud the contributions made by past Springboks, like Jonty Rhodes and Graeme Pollock  in Cricket or Naas Botha in Rugby to name a few and to be concerned that this does not appear to be the case in Spearfishing. I see Jannie Smit still active in Zululand and Len Jones who is still around in Natal and I am sure there are a few in the Cape, but what about John Hughes, Tubby Gericke, Laurie Plumridge, Peter Dexter, Brian Clarke, Arthur Ridge, Eric Roest of my era and those of more recent vintage. Are they still alive and active in our sport.

All sports need their veterans, and most of them encourage their participation at all levels. We also need to support and encourage our juniors and in our country we ignore the support of the previously disadvantaged at our peril. From my present position, I would appeal to all provinces to support these sections of our diving community to the utmost. Select and send your Veterans team to next years Nationals. My own small contribution will be the provision of a floating trophy for the winning Veterans Team at the Southern Cape Nationals next year. Send your Junior team to participate in the D Section.

At a Nationals level there seems to be significant controversy surrounding the issues of “swapping fish”. I guess this is a bit like “improving your lie in golf”. That this practice needs to be stamped out requires no debate. I would propose that anyone caught doing it is disqualified from ever again participating at National, Provincial or Club level.

Secondly I would like all to consider re-instating the individual championships as part of the Nationals as used to be the case. CMAS have just gone back to the same format. If this were the case then the team competition, held on separate days could be based on the format that each team is allowed 30 individual species irrespective of which member shoots them.

Thirdly I have proposed to next years organizers that if the host province can no longer retain the catch, that each participant be required to pay a fee, perhaps based on a sliding scale from A to D sections, to the host province to be split with SAFA in lieu of keeping their catch and disposing of it as they wish.

There are a number of constitutional changes that I would like to propose to SAFA, the most radical of which is to change the name from SAFA (South African Freedivers Association) to SAUFF (SA Underwater Fishing Federation). I believe that there are a number of positives to this change. Underwater Fishing is the name of the Spearfishing section of the Sports Section of CMAS and seems to be far more Conservation friendly than Spearfishing. Most CMAS affiliated bodies are called Federations and the SAUU have just changed their name to the SA Underwater Sports Federation.

Secondly I think the constitution should allow for those areas where there may only be one club to be affiliated to the National body with the same rights as a Province.

Thirdly, I think that Provinces (Clubs) and/or Members should pay affiliation fees.

Going back to World’s, there appear to be two options. We can either break away from CMAS (SAUU) and join the new body which tried to hold an alternative “Worlds” in Brazil earlier this year, or send a team to a Regional competition next year in the hope that they may qualify for the next Worlds in 2008. I await your response to this.

A further option would be for us to host a Regional Competition, but the CMAS Rules referred to above, require at least two years notification of such an event and the payment to CMAS of Euro 1,750.

Lastly sending e-mails to SAFA-List is like living in a vacuum, very little ever comes back. In order to represent any constituency requires a two way dialogue.

If I get no reaction to this e-mail I will have to conclude that spearfishermen do not want to be represented at a National level.

You can e-mail me at or or phone me at 083-322750 or 039-3172126 which is also my fax line.

Yours sincerely

Brent Addison