Spearfishing Competitions

Prof. Azzali, in his introduction to the book “Libro bianco – Le Gare di Pesca in Apnea”: writes:
"Spearfishing is at the origin of all other underwater activities. Only those who have a short memory or who do not like to look into the past do not know that underwater fishing and the famous exploits carried out by divers from the Italian Navy during the second world war are at the source of
all underwater activities in Italy and in all Mediterranean countries. This sport has profoundly changed humans' traditional attitude towards the sea. Spearfishing, which is better defined as "breath hold fishing" started as a competitive activity in the FIPS thanks to some enthusiasts, among whom Prof. Luigi Ferraro played an essential role. Competitions used to provide, and still do, the suitable circumstances to experiment with new technologies, materials and safety measures."

And, once again, Ferraro was the inspirational driving force for underwater hunting by writing regulations and organising competitions. Defending Spearfishing and the relevant competitions was another battle in which Ferraro has always been involved, especially within the CMAS. In fact, it was this organisation that should have been responsible for protecting this activity rather than attempting to oppose to it or even abolish it, on several occasions. This is how Ferraro, in the 70s, backed his position.


–by Luigi Ferraro

"It has been some time now since we started hearing influential rumours and since proposals have been presented against spearfishing.
As this certainly does not represent the most damaging factor to our fish resources (industrial fishing, pollution, etc. surely come first), we must assume that our opponents are influenced by demagogic, idealistic and gaudy theories that are not realistic. Even though there are famous and prestigious personalities among them, it is important to remember that as they are human, they could be mistaken and that the final conclusion should be the result of indisputable reasoning, not of simple affirmations.
In opposition to the claims against fishing it must be considered that: no speargun catches fish that are further than 3/4 metres away, fish are agile, fast, timid, they can hide in vast expanses of seaweed and rocky areas and have longer breath hold duration than men. Divers know, visit and are able to access only a very small portion of their natural habitat. There are fish such as sea bream, saddled bream, mullet, etc. that the diver comes across, but of which he is only able to catch an insignificant quantity. In addition to these species there are many others such as sardines, anchovies, sole, etc. that he never comes across, he does not catch and he never looks for. Finally, only a small percentage of what he seeks and attempts to catch he ends up taking home! Of the hundreds of species that are caught (or destroyed) in thousands of tons with the use of other methods, the diver only makes a dent in 4 or 5 species, accounting only for some tens of kilos. So?
So the problem has now been brought back to its "real proportions", which are very different from those disseminated. Therefore, after clarifying and putting into perspective the above and before putting forward any drastic and inconclusive proposals of abolition, it is necessary to make some rational and logical suggestions.
We could start thinking about underwater nature parks, areas of rotation, forbidding catching certain species, imposing measurement limits, banning periods, limits on quantity etc. Along these lines and with these solutions in mind, we will be able to reach an agreement and offer our contribution towards the development of a new policy.
As director of C.M.A.S., I also answer for the organisation's responsibility for protecting spearfishing. It should be seen as an advantage that C.M.A.S as well as dealing with tasks relating to development, technology, advertising and international issues also gets involved in spearfishing. This guarantees that the organisation is lead by directors who have advanced and broad perspectives.
Now I would like to clarify a point about myself. One may think that I protect fishing for personal interest. I would like to point out that I was not drawn to the diving sector by the advantages it had to offer, but that I have always been involved in this sector from the very beginning of my working life.
I have always believed in conquering the sea-bed to benefit future generations and I have always considered underwater sports, in all its forms (spearfishing above all), as a very useful expedient to transform humanity from terrestrial to underwater beings. These are my thoughts on the importance of the Sea-Bed and what inspired my overall conduct and work.
There are many causes for the depletion of fish resources and they are difficult to eliminate. They would require a battle that would last longer than life. And this is why it is easy to subconsciously point at the easiest targets. There are not many underwater hunters and they do not have much support. Their actions can easily be described under a negative light to the public, a battle that has good chances of succeeding and that could give its promoters the illusion of being champions of humanity. However, in reality this would have a minimum impact.
It seems absurd that we are the ones to announce the real causes of depletion, which are not even pollution or illegal fishing. The actual reason is that the sea is the only area of our planet from which man has only taken, from the beginning of his existence up to today.
For hundreds of thousands of years, man has used all available means to deplete the sea (now pollution and bombing have aggravated the situation), without ever thinking about "repopulating" and "reproducing".
What would be left today if the same happened on earth? Would we have ever known of cattle, chickens, pigs, wheat, cabbage, potatoes and so on?
Despite what we reported above, we are not proposing the abolition or the limitation of fishing. We are suggesting positive and constructive solutions.
We propose to repopulate the sea. This could be achieved through reproduction in captivity, artificial fertilisation, reproduction due to the work of man on earth. The sea could be repopulated with frie that have already overcome the most critical and difficult stage of their lives, they could even be "immunised", in other words adapted, immune to the effects of the poisons they will necessarily encounter in the environment, and the effects of pollution will simultaneously be reduced.
Why not apply this to all countries, in collaboration with public and international authorities in order to balance out the overall catch with what has been reproduced. In this way we would be the ones responsible for carrying out a very worthy operation for the survival of humanity. All these proposals are viable and have purely social purposes, including the increase of employment rather than its reduction, as this would happen if restrictions were enforced, without having a negative effect on anyone."

But it was in Ferraro's nature to maintain balance and clarity. If on the one hand he opposed clichés against hunting, from as early as 1951 he did not forget to put in a word for the dreaded sharks. This is what he writes to deny false beliefs.

"Man believed that the world stopped at Gibraltar for many years and that earth did not move, so it is not unusual that something that is universally believed is subsequently replaced by a completely different reality. Firstly I would like to be clear on one point: my intention is to eradicate the common belief that sharks are immensely ferocious and courageous animals, which would attack anyone who falls within their reach without discrimination, including humans. I do not believe these assumptions and I intend to demonstrate that they are unfounded with facts. I would like to specify that I am referring to the few notorious anthropophagous species and not to the infinite kinds that feed mainly on fish. If someone asked me whether sharks eat humans or not, I would give them two answers: yes, if the man appears as bait or as prey, if he seems to be in a disadvantaged condition (a man who is swimming on the surface , who is escaping, who lacks energy or sense, a corpse). And no, if the man maintains his own initiative or, especially if he appears in his element. In this situation the shark is forced to consider its options, which he does with the inborn wariness of any animal and with the fear deriving from the unusual encounter. As you will read below, today there are tens of divers who could testify in defence of the poor animal that is accused!"